China beams back photos from Mars after historic probe landing on red planet – including 'space selfie'

CHINA has released the first images taken by its groundbreaking Martian rover, Zhurong, on the Red Planet – including a "selfie".

The images beamed back to Earth by the high-tech robot showed obstacle-avoidance equipment and solar panels on the vehicle.

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The dusty surface of Earth's mysterious neighbour was also captured by cameras attached to Zhurong, state television reported on Wednesday.

China's uncrewed spacecraft Tianwen-1 landed on the surface of Mars on Saturday.

It makes China only the second country to successfully touch down on the Red Planet, after the U.S.

The rover Zhurong, named after a Chinese mythical fire god, will study the planet's surface soil and atmosphere, and look for signs of ancient life.

The China National Space Administration on Wednesday published the first images taken by the robot, which is about the size of a small car.

"People of the internet, the Mars images you've been longing for are here," the agency wrote in a social media post alongside the images.

Zhurong touched down after a treacherous descent through the Martian atmosphere described by scientists as "seven minutes of terror".

The landing was a nail-biter for the China National Space Administration (CNSA), with state media describing the process of using a parachute to slow descent and buffer legs as "the most challenging part of the mission".

The complicated process is called the "seven minutes of terror" because it happens faster than radio signals can reach Earth from Mars, meaning communications are limited.

The robot now sits in the Utopia Planitia, a largely flat area north of the Martian equator.

It is expected to spend around three months there taking photos and harvesting geographical data.

The U.S. has had nine successful landings on Mars since 1976.

The Soviet Union landed on the planet in 1971, but the mission failed after the craft stopped transmitting information soon after touchdown.

Several US, Russian and European attempts to land rovers on Mars have failed in the past, most recently in 2016 with the crash-landing of the Schiaparelli joint Russian-European spacecraft.

The latest successful arrival came in February, when US space agency NASA landed its rover Perseverance, which has since been exploring the planet.

And the UAE put a probe into the Red Planet's orbit on February 9.

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In other space news, a Nasa spacecraft has begun a 1.4billion-mile journey back to Earth after collecting rock samples from an ancient asteroid.

Nasa has released historic first audio recordings captured on the surface of Mars.

And, China and Russia have pledged to build a shared Moon base, marking the start of a new era in space cooperation between the two countries.

What are your thoughts on the Mars space race? Let us know in the comments…

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