Chinese rover and lander pose for portraits on Mars

The Zurong rover is surveying a region called Utopia Planitia, searching for water, signs of past life

The dusty, rocky surface of Mars and a Chinese rover and lander with small national flags were seen in photos released Friday showing the rover captured the Red Planet.

Four photos released by the China National Space Administration also show the upper stage of the Zurong rover and a view before the rover rolled off its platform.

CNSA said Zurong placed a remote camera about 10 meters (33 ft) from the landing platform, then withdrew to take a group picture.

After spending nearly three months orbiting the Red Planet, China last month landed the Tianwen-1 spacecraft carrying the rover on Mars. China is the second country after the United States to land and operate a spacecraft on Mars.

Both the orbiter and the lander display small Chinese flags and the lander features the outline of the mascots of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The six-wheeled rover is surveying an area known as Utopia Planitia, specifically looking for signs of water or ice that could provide clues to whether Mars ever harbored life.

At 1.85 meters (six feet), the Zurong is significantly smaller than the US’s Perseverance rover, which is exploring the planet with a small helicopter. NASA expects its rover to collect its first sample in July to return to Earth in early 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 at the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, station for three months, much longer than the length of any previous Chinese mission.

They will undertake spacewalks, construction and maintenance, and conduct science experiments.

Subsequent launches are planned to expand the station, send supplies and exchange staff. China has also brought back lunar samples, a first in any country’s space program since the 1970s, and landed a probe and rover on the less-explored far side of the Moon.

look | China’s Mars probe took first pictures from the surface of the Red Planet

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