A photo from the Martian surface shows the Zhurong rover's solar panels and antenna unfolding. Photo courtesy of China National Space Administration
May 19 (UPI) -- China on Wednesday provided the first images from its Tianwen-1 space mission on the surface of Mars.
The photos were taken by Beijing's Zhurong rover, which is named after a Chinese mythical god of fire and war, that landed on a vast Martian plain called Utopia Planitia. NASA's Viking 2 mission previously landed in Utopia Planitia in the 1970s.
China is the third country to successfully land a rover on Mars, after the United States and Russia. It touched down last weekend.
Over the next three months, the rover will collect and send data and information about Mars' surface.
The images Wednesday from the Chinese National Space Administration show the six-wheeled rover emerging from the craft and opening four solar panels, which are similar to wings, and a communication antenna.
The CNSA said radio communication was more difficult than it had been with its Jade Rabbit rover when it landed on the moon in 2013. Zhurong's descent included seven minutes without radio transmission.
"Landing on the moon relies primarily on rocket engines to decelerate, as the moon has no atmosphere, while the first stage of landing on Mars uses its atmosphere as brakes," one researcher said, according to the South China Morning Post.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University President Teng Jin-Guang expressed congratulations to the Chinese research teams. The university played a key role in the rover's landing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also sent a congratulatory note to scientists.
Beijing has been ramping up space missions in recent years with the goal of becoming a superpower in space exploration.
NASA's Perseverance Mars rover, using its Mastcam-Z camera system, captured this view of the Martian sunset on November 9, 2021, the 257th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Martian sunsets typically stand out for their distinctive blue color as fine dust in the atmosphere permits blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than colors with longer wavelengths. But this sunset looks different: Less dust in the atmosphere resulted in a more muted color than average. The color has been calibrated and white-balanced to remove camera artifacts. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo