We just received our first image of Mars from the Chinese probe Tianwen 1, and it was breathtaking

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The Chinese probe Tianwen-1 has returned its first image of MarsThe National Space Agency said, as the mission is preparing to land on the red planet later this year.

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

The black-and-white image released by the Chinese National Space Administration Friday night showed geological features, including the Schiaparelli Crater and Vales Marineris, a vast expanse of canyons on the surface of Mars.

The image was taken 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) from Mars, according to CNSA, which said the spacecraft is now 1.1 million kilometers from the planet.

The agency said that the robotic device launched one of its engines to “perform an orbital correction” on Friday and is expected to slow before being “captured by the gravity of Mars” around February 10.

(China National Space Administration)

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

China eventually hopes that the rover will land in May in Utopia, a basin with massive impact on Mars.

After seeing the United States and the Soviet Union lead the way during the Cold War, China invested billions of dollars in its military-led space program.

It has made great strides in the past decade, sending humans into space in 2003.

The Asian power plant laid the groundwork for assembling a space station by 2022 and permanently gaining a foothold in Earth orbit.

But Mars has proven to be a difficult target so far, as most of the missions sent by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and India to the planet since 1960 have failed.

Tianwen-1 is not the first Chinese attempt to reach Mars.

A previous mission with Russia ended prematurely in 2011 because a launch had failed.

China has already sent two rovers to the moon. With the second, China became the first country to achieve a smooth landing on the other side.

The US National Space Agency said Friday that all of the Tianwin-1 probe systems are “in good condition”.

© Agence France-Presse





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