Tianwen1 probe sends back its first picture of Mars

  06 February 2021    Read: 713
Tianwen1 probe sends back its first picture of Mars

China’s Tianwen-1 probe has sent back its first picture of Mars, the Chinese space agency has said, as the mission prepares to touch down later this year.

The spacecraft, launched in July around the same time as a US mission, is expected to enter Mars orbit around 10 February.

The photo released by the China National Space Administration shows geological features including the Schiaparelli crater and the Valles Marineris, a vast stretch of canyons on the Martian surface.

The photo was taken from about 1.4m miles away (2.2m kilometres), said the CNSA, with the spacecraft since reaching 1.1 million kilometres from the planet.

The robotic craft ignited one of its engines to make an orbital correction on Friday and was expected to slow down before being captured by Martian gravity around 10 February, the agency said.

The five-tonne Tianwen-1 includes a Mars orbiter, lander, and a rover that will study the planet’s soil.

China hopes to land the rover in May in Utopia, a massive impact basin.

China has poured billions of dollars into its military-led space programme and first sent a human into space in 2003. It is aiming to assemble a space station in Earth orbit by 2022.

Mars has always been challenging target, with most missions sent by the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and India since 1960 ending in failure.

Tianwen-1 is not China’s first attempt to reach Mars. A previous mission with Russia in 2011 ended prematurely as the launch failed.

China has sent two rovers to the moon – one of them becoming the first to make a successful soft landing on the far side.

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