A Chinese remote-controlled motorized rover drove down the ramp of a landing platform and onto the surface of Mars, making China the first country to orbit, land, and deploy a land vehicle on its first mission to the Red Planet.
The rover, named Zhurong after the Chinese god of fire, had been conducting diagnostic tests several days before beginning its exploration.
China this month joined the US as the only country to send land vehicles to Mars. In 1971, the former Soviet Union landed a craft, but communication was lost seconds later.
The 240-kg Zhurong will research the planet’s surface soil and atmosphere with six scientific instruments, including a high-resolution topography camera.
During its 90-day exploration of the Martian surface, Zhurong will use ground-penetrating radar to search for signs of ancient life, including any subsurface water and ice.
In July of last year, China’s unmanned Tianwen-1 spacecraft blasted off from the southern Chinese island of Hainan. Tianwen-1 arrived on Mars in February after a more than six-month journey and has been in orbit since then.
The landing capsule carrying the rover separated from Tianwen-1 on May 15 and landed on Utopia Planitia, a large plain.
The Chinese space agency released the first images taken by the rover on the last day. In February, three probes arrived on Mars, Tianwen-1 was one of them.
China has grand ambitions in space, including the launch of a crewed orbital station and the landing of a human on the moon.
In 2019, China became the first country to land a space probe on the moon’s little-explored far side, and lunar rocks were returned to Earth for the first time since the 1970s in December.