An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has acquired imagery data covering all of Mars, including visuals of its south pole, after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year, state media reported yesterday.
The Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February last year on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space.
Among the images taken from space were China’s first photographs of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked.
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 4,000km Valles Marineris canyon, and impact craters on 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 18,000m Ascraeus Mons, a large shield volcano first detected by NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft more than five decades ago.
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