The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has released pictures from its Tianwen-1 mission, including the spacecraft in orbit around Mars. The Tianwen-1 mission was launched in July 2020 and consists of an orbiter, seen above Mars in the image below, as well as a lander and a rover.
According to a post on Chinese-language WeChat, this image shows the Tianwen-1 orbiter over the north pole of Mars. You can see the white of Mars’s polar ice caps on the planet below, but unlike the polar ice caps on Earth which are composed of water ice, the Martian ice caps are composed of dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) as well as water ice. You can also see other features on Mars such as the famous icy Korolev crater.
The Tianwen-1 orbiter is seen above Mars. Xinhua/CNSA
In addition to the orbiter portion of the mission, the lander part of the mission touched down on Mars in May last year in the Utopia Planitia region. The lander then released the rover onto the surface. The rover that is currently exploring the Martian surface is named Zhurong, after a traditional Chinese fire god.
A further image was captured by the rover, showing the Martian surface. It reveals the topography of Mars, including craters and rocks:
An image of the Martian surface captured by the Zhurong rover. Xinhau/CNSA
As reported by Chinese state news agency Xinhua, “As of Dec. 31, 2021, the Tianwen-1 orbiter had been working in orbit for 526 days, at a distance of about 350 million km above Earth. Zhurong had been working on the surface of the Red Planet for 225 Martian days and traveled 1,400 meters, according to the CNSA.”
Xinhua went on to report that, “The Tianwen-1 mission is carrying out the planned exploration and test tasks, obtaining about 560 gigabytes (GB) of data. Both the orbiter and rover are in good condition and operating normally, the CNSA said.”