Chinese spacecraft photographs entire planet of Mars

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 on Wednesday.

The Tianwen-1 reached the Red Planet last February, in China's inaugural mission to Mars. A robotic rover, named Zhurong, was deployed on the surface, as the orbiter surveyed the planet from space.

Two research teams from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University had helped with the mission's landing site mapping and evaluation, and were involved in the development of the Mars Landing Surveillance Camera.

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 had 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.

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Other Tianwen-1 images include photographs of the 4,000-kilometre long canyon Valles Marineris, and impact craters of highlands in the north of Mars known as Arabia Terra.

Tianwen-1, or "Questions to Heaven", named after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, also sent back high-resolution imagery of the edge of the vast Maunder crater, as well as a top-down view of the 18,000-metre Ascraeus Mons, a large shield volcano first detected by Nasa's Mariner 9 spacecraft more than five decades ago. (Additional reporting by Reuters)
Last updated: 2022-06-29 HKT 16:33

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