Chinese probe successfully photographed the entire surface of Mars in all its glory

(ORDO NEWS) — After exploring Mars for more than a year, China’s Tianwen-1 space probe has successfully captured images covering the entire Red Planet, China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) said on June 29.

Tianwen-1, which translates to “search for celestial truth,” consists of six separate spacecraft: an orbiter, two deployable cameras, a lander, a remote camera, and a Zhurong rover.

The images in question were taken by the orbiter during its 1,344 flyby of Mars, taking pictures of the Red Planet from all angles while Zhurong surveyed the surface. The CNSA statement said the probe has completed all of its missions, including taking medium-resolution images covering the entire planet.

Tianwen-1 was launched on July 23, 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. What makes this mission unique is that China was trying to be the first country to successfully send an orbiter and rover to Mars on the first try.

The successful launch and landing of Tianwen-1 was a historic victory for both CNSA and space exploration. Prior to Tianwen-1, the only two successful missions to send an orbiter and lander to Mars were NASA’s Viking 1 and Viking 2 missions in 1975.

Prior to this, the Soviet Union tried to accomplish this feat with their Mars. 2 and 3 missions in 1971 and Mars 6 in 1973. Mars 2 was a complete failure: the lander was destroyed and the orbiter sent no data back.

On Mars 3, the orbiter received approximately eight months of data, and although the lander landed safely, it only returned 20 seconds of data. On Mars 6, the orbiter provided coverage experiment data, but the lander failed on descent.

During the exploration of the Red Planet, Tianwen-1 showed Mars, which we have come to love and admire. : dust dunes, shield volcanoes, impact craters and even the north pole.

Chinese probe successfully photographed the entire surface of Mars in all its glory 1
A crater on Mars taken by the Tianwen-1 space probe

While the orbiter was taking these amazing pictures, Zhurong was gathering data and information about Mars’ geology, atmosphere, environment, and soil.

In all, the probe collected 1,040 gigabytes of raw scientific data, which CNSA says has been processed by scientists on Earth and given to researchers for further study.

Although the probe entered Mars orbit on February 10, 2021, the Zhurong rover did not land on Mars until May 14 of that year. It landed on the Utopia Plain, the current home of NASA’s Viking 2 spacecraft, which landed on the vast Martian plain in 1975.

In June 2022, Zhurong successfully discovered hydrated minerals in sediments from the most recent geological period on Mars, which is most likely related to groundwater. Hydrated minerals include substances such as olivine, pyroxene, and feldspar, which likely changed when water was incorporated into their chemical structures.

Chinese probe successfully photographed the entire surface of Mars in all its glory 2
Image of dunes on Mars taken by the Zhurong rover shortly before it went dormant in May 2022

Unfortunately, as of May 18, 2022, Zhurong had to go into hibernation due to a drop in temperature during the Martian winter, as well as poor sand and dust conditions. This dormant mode ensures the long-term survivability of the rover, which will wake up sometime in December.

While Tianwen-1 makes China only the third country to successfully land a spacecraft on the surface of Mars, the European Space Agency (ESA), India and the United Arab Emirates have successfully sent their respective spacecraft into orbit around the Red Planet.

Tianwen-1 also shows China’s strong desire to explore Mars, as it recently announced its plans. will return samples from Mars to Earth in 2031, a full two years ahead of NASA and ESA.

In addition to their ambitious robotic missions, CNSA announced last year that they plan to send their first manned mission to the Red Planet in 2033 with the goal of sending regular missions to Mars and building a base there over time.

This 2033 time frame is in stark contrast to what NASA announced earlier this year that they plan to send astronauts to Mars in the late 2030s or early 2040s. the space station currently has three astronauts on a six-month stay, with the last crew only arriving last month.

Where will space exploration take us in the coming years? Which country will land the first humans on Mars? Only time will tell, and that’s why we do science!

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