China reveals stunning images of the entirety of Mars

Tianwen-1 probe has circled the planet more than 1,300 times – and has looked in detail at a promising region

China has revealed stunning images taken of the surface of Mars, using an unscrewed spacecraft.

The Tianwen-1 probe has successfully taken imagery data covering the whole of the planet, including its south pole, state media reported.

The south pole is of particular interest to scientists because the icy region could ply a key role in discovering whether the planet could be home to alien life.

Now China has taken images of that region – and the rest of the planet – in rich detail, using the spacecraft.

It has circled the planet more than 1,300 times since it arrived at Mars early last year.

China‘s Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February 2021 on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space.

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.

Other Tianwen-1 images include photographs of the 4,000-kilometre (2,485-mile) long canyon Valles Marineris, and impact craters of highlands in the north of Mars known as Arabia Terra.

Tianwen-1 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 (59,055-foot) Ascraeus Mons, a large shield volcano first detected by NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft more than five decades ago.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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