Chinese Mars Explorer Tianwen-1 sent its first photo of the Red Planet on Friday, the Chinese space agency (CNSA) has said. The probe should arrive at Mars around February 10.
Taken about 2.2 million km away from the planet, a first photo has come in. According to the CNSA, it shows the canyons of Valles Marineris near the equator, the large crater Schiaparelli and the plain Acidalia Planitia.
On Friday, the probe performed its fourth orbit maneuver, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said. The rig was 1.1 million km from its target on Friday, and all systems are working as they should.
The mission includes an “orbiter”, a lander, and a small robotic jeep weighing more than 200 kilograms. Tianwen-1 is to map Mars better and look for signs of past and present life.
If all goes well, the robotic jeep will land on Mars in April to drive over the surface and conduct experiments. The jeep has four solar panels and six wheels. It must be operational for three months.
If the mission is successful, China will become the third country after America and the former Soviet Union to land a spacecraft on our neighboring planet softly.
A Mars landing is not self-evident. About half of all attempts have failed.