BEIJING, Feb.5 (Reuters) – 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 unequipped Tianwen-1 took the photo at a distance of about 2.2 million km (1.4 million miles) from Mars, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), which provided a black image and white.
The probe is only half that distance from Mars and about 184 million km from Earth after a 197-day mission, CNSA said in a statement, adding that its systems were in good condition. Tianwen-1 was launched in July from Hainan Island in southern China and is expected to reach orbit of Mars this month. In May, it will attempt to land in Utopia Planitia, a northern hemisphere plain, and deploy a rover to explore for 90 days.
If successful, the Tianwen-1 will make China the first country to orbit, land and deploy a rover in its inaugural mission to Mars, further boosting China’s space credentials after it became the year last the first country to bring back samples from the moon since the 1970s. had already made a Mars offer in 2011 with Russia, but the Russian spacecraft carrying the probe failed to leave Earth orbit and s ‘disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean.