China’s Mars lander sends its first pictures back to Earth

China’s Mars lander sends its first pictures back to Earth
China’s Mars lander has sent back its first photos from the surface of the red planet.

China’s Mars lander has sent back its first photos from the surface of the red planet.

The interplanetary selfie shows the lander, named Zhurong, and the Martian soil stretching out ahead of it.

The new pictures come after it landed on the surface on Saturday, following the journey known as “seven minutes of terror”.

The successful arrival was the first time that any non-Nasa lander had safely arrived on the Martian surface.

In a message posted to the Nasa website on Wednesday, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson congratulated the China National Space Administration on receiving its first images.

Mr Nelson said: “As the international scientific community of robotic explorers on Mars grows, the United States and the world look forward to the discoveries Zhurong will make to advance humanity’s knowledge of the Red Planet. I look forward to future international discoveries, which will help inform and develop the capabilities needed to land human boots on Mars.”

The pictures were taken by Zhurong from the top of its landing platform. Since setting down on Saturday, the rover has been conducting diagnostic tests and will shortly descend its ramp to begin a search for signs of frozen water.

The United States is the only other country to have successfully landed and operated a spacecraft on Mars – nine times, beginning with the twin Vikings in 1976 and, most recently, with the Perseverance rover in February.

China also recently brought back lunar samples, the first by any country’s space programme since the 1970s, and also landed a probe and rover on the moon’s less explored far side.

China earlier launched two smaller experimental space stations. It has been excluded from the International Space Station largely at the insistence of the United States, which is wary of the secrecy surrounding the Chinese space programme and its close military links. Congressional approval is also required for any co-operation between Nasa and the CNSA.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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