Chinese rover Zhurong Mars moves on after completing its initial program to explore the red planet and look for frozen water that could provide clues as to whether it ever supported life.
China’s National Space Administration said on its website on Friday that Zhurong completed its 90-day program on Aug. 15 and was in excellent technical condition and fully loaded.
She said she would continue to explore the area known as Utopia Planitia, where she landed on May 14th. Zhurong has been sending back photos and data via the Tianwen-1 orbiter that passes through it once a day.
After the United States, China is the second country to land and sustainably operate a spacecraft on Mars, where days are 40 minutes longer than on Earth.
At 1.85 meters (6 feet) tall, Zhurong is significantly smaller than the American Perseverance rover, which is exploring the planet with a tiny helicopter. NASA expects its rover to collect its first sample in July to return to Earth as early as 2031.
At the same time, China is setting up its permanent space station, with three astronauts now aboard the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, nucleus that was put into orbit on April 29. Two of the astronauts completed their second spacewalk on Friday. All three are expected to return to Earth in September and will be replaced by a new crew.
China previously launched two smaller experimental space stations. He was excluded from the International Space Station largely at the urging of the United States, which distrusts the secrecy of the Chinese space program and close military ties. Congressional approval is also required for any cooperation between NASA and the CNSA.
China also recently brought back lunar samples, the first in any country’s space program since the 1970s, and landed a probe and a rover on the less explored side of the moon.
China put an astronaut into orbit for the first time in 2003, making it only the third country to do so.