August 13, 2022
China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) has published a series of detailed images taken by its Tianwen-1 Mars probe that cover the entire surface of Mars.
The uncrewed Chinese spacecraft sent back visuals of various locations of Mars, including its south pole, after it circled the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year.
China first reached the Red Planet in February 2021 and began transmitting high-definition images of Earth’s neighbor.
One of the fascinating images, released by China, is of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked, reports Reuters.
In 2018, an orbiting probe operated by the European Space Agency discovered water under the ice of the planet’s south pole.
Locating subsurface water is key to determining the planet’s potential for life, as well as providing a permanent resource for any human exploration there.
Other Tianwen-1 images include photographs of the 2,485-mile long canyon Valles Marineris, and impact craters of highlands in the north of Mars known as Arabia Terra.
Tianwen-1 also sent back high-resolution imagery of the edge of the vast Maunder crater, as well as a top-down view of the 59,055-foot Ascraeus Mons, a large shield volcano first detected by NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft more than five decades ago.
At the beginning of the year, the CNSA published four photos of the Tianwen-1 probe above Mars, with the ice cover on the planet’s north pole.
And in February, it sent back a selfie video showing its orbit around the Red Planet in celebration of the Lunar New Year.
What is Tiaenwen-1?
Tianwen-1 is the name of the robotic spacecraft to Mars that actually consists of six separate pieces of equipment — an orbiter, two deployable cameras, a lander, a remote camera and the Zhurong rover.
China successfully launched the uncrewed Tianwen-1 on July 23, 2020, aboard a Long March 5 Y-4 carrier rocket from Wenchang Space Launch Centre.
The mission, named Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven,” is a nod to an ancient Chinese poem that has verses about the cosmos.
The probe traveled a total of 295 million miles and carried out several trajectory maneuvers before entering Martian orbit on February 10, 2021.
After over three months of preparations, the probe released the lander which touched down on Mars on May 15.
The feat made China the second country, after the US, to have successfully conducted a Martian landing.
The orbiter and its deployable cameras have been encircling the planet in space ever since, and have completed over 1,300 orbits.
The robotic Zhurong rover made its descent from the lander on the planet’s surface on May 22, about a week after the lander touched down.
Image credits: Photos courtesy of CNSA.