Mars Images China Has Taken So Far as Orbiter Snaps Selfie Above the Red Planet

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) has published stunning images of its Tianwen-1 spacecraft orbiting Mars. The images included a shot of the orbiter flying around the red planet, a snap of Mars' northern ice caps, and the first full photo of the orbiter.

Tianwen 1 images Mars
An image shows China's Tianwen 1 spacecraft above Mars. The image was caught with a remote camera which detected from the craft. PEC/CNSA

Tianwen 1 captured the selfies with a camera that detached from the main body of the craft. The images showing its golden main body, solar arrays and antenna, as well as Mars in the background, were beamed back to the craft from the camera via Wi-Fi.

Tianwen-1 launched in July 2020 and reached Mars in February 2021. After it arrived at the red planet, the craft deployed China's first Mars rover and a lander system to the Martian surface.

Red Planet In Black and White
The Tianwen-1 probe sends back its first image of Mars in February 2021. CNSA

The Zhurong rover touched down on Mars on May 14, 2021, taking an image of its landing site with the parachute that carried it to safety and the shell of its capsule visible in the distance.

Roaming a vast basin area of Mars called Utopia Planitia, the rover has already exceeded its 3-month-long mission to collect data regarding the flow of water or ice below the surface of the planet.

 Zhurong landing Site
China's Zhurong Mars rover captures an image of its landing spot. In the distance that parachute that carried it to the surface can be seen. CNSA

Between the Tianwen-1 spacecraft and Zhurong rover, the CNSA has a range of instruments in-situ around Mars including cameras, a radar system, climate sensors and a laser spectrometer

Data released thus far include images of Mars from Zhurong's navigation camera, climatic data regarding temperature, pressure, and wind speed, and information on the chemical composition of rocks, soil, and sand dunes of Mars from a laser spectrometer. And now it adds these spectacular color images taken from orbit.

Northern Ice Cap Mars
An image of the northern ice cap of Mars as taken by China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft. PEC/CNSA

The release of these new images also included an update on the 6ft, 530lb Zhurong rover, which is estimated to have traveled around 1,400 meters in its 224 days on the surface of Mars.

Also released was a mosaic image of the surface of Mars as seen by Zhurong and stitched together from three smaller images.

Mars Surface
A mosaic of images taken of Mars' Surface as Seen by China's Zhurong rover. pec/CNSA

The images provide more than a chance to awe at the achievements of humans in space, however. They also show how the Tianwen-1 spacecraft is faring after a year in space.

CNSA told the press: "The orbiter is currently orbiting Mars in very good condition. We can see our orbiter flying around Mars in a working state, and we can clearly see the solar panel wings, directional antenna, and some of the antenna facilities in orbit."

A mission taken of the Tianwen-1 spacecraft with Mars in the distance. PEC/CNSA

This isn't the first time that Tianwen-1 has used a remote camera to snap a cosmic selfie. In October 2020, during its trip while 15 million miles from Earth, the craft ejected a minuscule camera that caught it framed against the blackness of space.

Tianwen-1 Deep Space
Tianwen-1 takes an image of itself while located 15 million miles from Earth. The craft reached Mars in February 2021. CNSA

Thus far Tianwen-1 has transmitted almost 540 gigabytes of data back to Earth and mission controllers say it still has sufficient energy and is in good condition.

Tianwen-1 Mission
(Right) an illustration of China's Tiawen-1 spacecraft. (Left) an actual image if the craft taken by a remote camera. PEC/CNSA