China’s first space exploration mission to Mars captured its first image of the red planet, the space agency said on Friday, about six months after the probe left Earth. The unmanned Tianwen-1 took the photo at a distance of about 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Mars, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), which provided a blank image. and black. The probe is now only half that distance from Mars and about 184 million kilometers from Earth after 197 days into the mission, the 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 around Mars this month. In May, it will attempt to land on Utopia Planitia, a plain in the northern hemisphere, and will deploy a rover to explore for 90 days. If successful, Tianwen-1 will make China the first country to orbit, land and deploy a rover on its maiden mission to Mars, further boosting China’s space credentials after it became the first nation last year. in bringing samples from the Moon since 1970. China previously made a Mars offer in 2011 with Russia, but the Russian spacecraft carrying the probe failed to leave Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean.