CHINA’S MARS ROVER SENDS FIRST IMAGES
In a day of exciting firsts and temporary setbacks, China managed to get a rover onto Mars, even as it had to delay some plans for its first space station, Andreas Landwehr reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
China's Zhurong rover transmitted its first images from Mars to Earth on Wednesday, just days after China made history by becoming the second country to send a probe to the Red Planet's surface.
All systems were operating normally, state media reported. The images showed the rover briefly after landing on Mars, while another shows Zhurong separating from the orbiting Tianwen-1 spacecraft, according to China’s space agency.
The landing module touched down on the surface of Mars on Saturday, making China only the second country after the United States to land a vessel successfully on Earth's neighbor. Tianwen-1 took off from Earth on July 23 and reached orbit in February.
The flight was one of the most difficult that China has ever undertaken. The landing was a major challenge, as Mars has its own atmosphere, unlike the moon. If all goes to plan, the Zhurong rover, named for the Chinese god of fire, will investigate the Red Planet for at least three months.
Beijing has steadily expanded its space program over the past few years and has missions planned for decades into the future.
Work began on that project at the end of April when the 22-ton Tianhe, which is to form the core module of the space station, was sent up on a rocket.
But Chinese space authorities canceled the launch of a Long March 7 rocket, scheduled for early Thursday, at the last minute, citing technical problems. A new date will be set. The launch was to bring supplies to the Tianhe.
It was to be the second of a planned 11 flights for pulling together the planned Tiangong space station, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.