Life Science China’s Mars rover Zhurong takes group picture on the Red Planet
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China’s Mars rover Zhurong takes group picture on the Red Planet

The Chinese Mars rover Zhurong is seen near its landing platform taken by a remote camera that was dropped into position by the rover. Photo: CNSA
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A photo of a dusty, rocky Martian surface and a Chinese rover and lander together has been released by the China National Space Administration, with a wireless camera making the dual selfie possible.

Three other photos were also released on Friday, showing the upper stage of the Zhurong rover and the view from the rover before it rolled off its platform.

Zhurong placed a remote camera about 10 metres from the landing platform, then withdrew to take a group portrait, the CNSA said.

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

The orbiter and lander both display small Chinese flags and the lander has outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

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

The lander has outlines of the mascots for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympic Photo: CNSA

At 1.85 metres in height, Zhurong is significantly smaller than the US’s Perseverance rover which is exploring the planet with a tiny helicopter.

The US’s Perseverance rover is exploring the planet with a tiny helicopter. Photo: CNSA

NASA expects its rover to collect and package up its first surface sample in July, which a future rover will later collect and 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 on the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, station, far exceeding the length of any previous Chinese mission.

They will perform spacewalks, construction and maintenance work and carry out scientific experiments.

This photo taken by the navigation camera fitted to the rear of the rover, shows that the rover’s solar panels and antenna. Photo: CNSA

Subsequent launches are planned to expand the station, send up supplies and exchange crews.

China has also brought back lunar samples — the first by any country’s space program since the 1970s — and landed a probe and rover on the Moon’s less-explored far side.