The dusty, rocky surface of Mars and a Chinese rover and lander with small national flags were seen in photos released Friday as the rover took over the red planet.
The four images released by the China National Space Administration also show the upper phase of the Zhurong rover and the view from the rover before it rolled off its platform.
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Zhurong placed a remote camera approx. 10 meters from the landing platform and then withdrew to take a group portrait, CNSA said.
China landed the Tianwen-1 spacecraft with the rover on Mars last month, after spending about three months in orbit around the red planet. China is the second country to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars after the United States.
Orbiter and lander both display small Chinese flags, and the lander has contours of the mascots for the Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022 and the Paralympics.
The six-wheeled rover explores an area known as Utopia Planitia and in particular searches for signs of water or ice that may give clues as to whether Mars has ever lived.
At a height of 1.85 meters, Zhurong is significantly smaller than the US Perseverance Rover, which explores the planet with a small helicopter. NASA expects its rover to collect its first sample in July to return to Earth as early as 2031.
In addition to the Mars mission, China’s ambitious space program plans to send the first crew to its new space station next week. The three crew members plan to stay for three months at Tianhe or Heavenly Harmony station, which far exceeds the length of any previous Chinese mission. They will perform space travel, construction and maintenance work and perform scientific experiments.
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Subsequent launches are planned to expand the station, send supplies and exchange crews. China has also brought back lunar samples, the first of any country’s space program since the 1970s, landing a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored distant side.