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China has framed the whole of Mars – and the images are stunning

Image of Mars made by China Tianwen-1.

An image of Mars’ “Arabian Highlands” impact crater is captured by the camera at the center of the orbiter. Image Credit: CNSA

China has completed its global imaging of Mars and fulfilled the main missions of the robotic spacecraft Tianwen-1.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the prime contractor of the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA), announced the success of the mission on the Chinese social media platform Weibo on Wednesday, June 29. The mission has managed to pick up medium-definition images of the entire planet, as well as some high-definition images that glow with detail and vibrant colors.

ascraeus mons

The crater on top of Ascraeus Mons. Image Credit: CNSA

Named after an ancient poem titled “Heavenly Questions” in Chinese, Tianwen-1 was launched in July 2020 as the country’s first independent interplanetary reconnaissance mission. It consists of a six-member gang consisting of an orbiter, two deployable cameras, a lander, a remote camera and the Zhurong rover.

After reaching Mars in February 2021, a “selfie” of the Zhurong rover and his lander was taken on the surface of Mars with its external camera and beamed back to its proud parents in China.

China's image of Valles Marineris canyon on Mars

Image of the Valles Marineris canyon on Mars. Image Credit: CNSA

Since then, the mission has been scanning and imaging the surface of the Red Planet, collecting 1,040 gigabytes of raw data from more than 1,344 orbits. All of this juicy data, China says, will be made publicly available to scientists around the world in due course.

This includes a lot of stunning, high-resolution images, with bright red shots of some of the most important and intriguing corners of Mars.

Below the snaps is a catalog of images detailing the Valles Marineris (above), a colossal system of canyons that run more than 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) along the surface of Mars, reaching depths of up to 7 kilometers (4 miles). It’s unclear how this massive scar-like fissure formed, but experts suspect that it started billions of years ago as a crack during the cooling of the planet.

Mars South Pole.

Below the south pole of Mars is a subglacial lake. Image Credit: CNSA

There are also images of the south pole of Mars. This is a particularly intriguing part of Mars, as it is home to a huge… subglacial saltwater lake that could be our best chance of finding evidence of life on our planetary neighbor. Tianwen-1 certainly wouldn’t have picked up any swimming Martians there, but the images could potentially help educate scientists on the hunt for alien life.

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