China’s first space exploration mission to Mars has captured its first image of the red planet, the space agency said on Friday, about six months after the probe left Earth.
The unscrewed Tianwen-1 took the picture at a distance of around 2.2 million km from Mars, according to the Chinese Space Agency (CNSA), which provided a black and white image.
After 197 days of mission, the probe is only half as far from Mars and around 184 million km from Earth, the CNSA said in a statement that its systems are in good condition.
The Tianwen-1 was launched from China’s southern island of Hainan in July and is scheduled to enter Mars orbit this month. In May an attempt will be made to land in Utopia Planitia, a plain in the northern hemisphere, and deploy a rover that can be explored for 90 days.
If the Tianwen-1 is successful, China will be the first country to orbit, land, and deploy a rover on its first mission to Mars in the 1970s.
China had already made a Mars offer with Russia in 2011, but the Russian spacecraft with the probe could not leave Earth orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific.
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