China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft shares stunning new photos of the surface of Mars

China’s Tianwen-1 space probe currently orbiting Mars has sent back stunning new images of the Martian surface taken during its first month orbiting the Red Planet.

The uncrewed spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) shared the images on Thursday, including two in black and white and one showing orange hues of the rocky world.

Tianwen-1 is one of three missions to Mars in 2021 and the only one to include both an orbiting spacecraft and rover that will land on the Red Planet.

The three new images were taken by two survey cameras on the probe that will also help the CNSA map the surface and find a safe landing site for the rover.

The full colour image showing a dramatic landscape on the near-dead world was taken with a medium-resolution camera and reveals the northern polar region

The two black and white images were taken by the probes high-resolution camera from about 330km above the surface of Mars, CNSA confirmed

So far 2021 has been the ‘year of Mars’ with three spaceships from Earth arriving at the Red Planet.

The first visitor from Earth to arrive was also a first for the Arab world – the United Arab Emirates ‘Hope’ probe.

This spaceship is going to monitor the weather on Mars over a full year.

The second ship was from China – Tianwen-1 will orbit Mars until May when it will deploy a rover.

This will make China only the second country after the US to land a rover on Mars if it is succesful.

NASA’s Perseverance was the last of the three to arrive in Martian orbit, but the first to land on the Red Planet.

The full colour image showing a dramatic landscape on the near-dead world was taken with a medium-resolution camera and reveals the northern polar region.

The two black and white images were taken by the probes high-resolution camera from about 330km above the surface of Mars, CNSA confirmed.

They have a resolution of about 0.7 metres, allowing the camera to capture clear small craters, ridges, dunes and other surface features.

The spacecraft, Tianwen-1, gets its name from the title of an ancient poem and means ‘Quest for Heavenly Truth’ in English.

The new images were shared after the spacecraft executed a manoeuvre to adjust its position into a temporary parking orbit.

It will remain in the new orbit for about the next three months before attempting to land on the surface of the Red Planet.

During that time, it will be mapping the surface of Mars and using its cameras and other sensors to collect further data, particularly about its prospective landing site.

A successful bid to land Tianwen-1 would make China only the second country after the US to place an operating rover on Mars.

China’s solar-powered vehicle, about the size of a golf cart, will collect data on underground water and look for evidence that the planet may have once harboured microscopic life.

This is a similar mission to the NASA Perseverance rover that landed last Thursday near an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater.

China’s landing attempt will involve a parachute, rocket firings and airbags.

Its proposed landing site is a vast, rock-strewn plain called Utopia Planitia, where the NASA Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.

Tianwen-1’s arrival at Mars on February 10 was preceded by that of an orbiter from the United Arab Emirates.

The high-resolution camera that took this has a resolution of about 0.7 metres, allowing the camera to capture clear small craters, ridges, dunes and other surface features

This view of the planet Mars was captured by China’s Tianwen-1 Mars probe from a distance of 2.2 million kilometers before it arrived in orbit in February

The spacecraft, Tianwen-1, gets its name from the title of an ancient poem and means ‘Quest for Heavenly Truth’ in English.

It is one of the most ambitious missions by the Chinese space agency so far undertaken.