China’s first Mars exploration mission has released a series of global images of Mars obtained by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the China National Space Administration (CNSA). The coloured images were released during the launch event of the Space Day of China in Hefei, Anhui Province. The images include the following:
- The orthographic projection of the eastern and western hemispheres of Mars.
- The Robinson projection of Mars.
- The Mercator projection.
- An azimuthal projection of the planet.
These images have a spatial resolution of 76 metres and are based on 14,757 image data acquired by a remote-sensing camera on the Tianwen-1 orbiter over eight months, from November 2021 to July 2022.
The CNSA launched the Tianwen-1 mission on July 23, 2020, and consisted of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. After 202 days of flight, the mission entered the orbit of Mars. On May 15, 2021, the lander, carrying the rover Zhurong, touched down on the southern zone of Utopia Planitia, which is a vast plain in the northern hemisphere of Mars. From May 22 onwards, Zhurong started exploring the red planet by driving down from its landing platform to the Martian surface.
The release of these global images is significant, as they provide a better quality base map for Mars exploration and scientific research. Zhang Rongqiao, the chief designer of China’s first Mars exploration mission, stated, “It is an important contribution that Tianwen-1 has made to human deep space exploration.” He also announced that the scientific data of Tianwen-1 would be open to the world from May 1 this year.
The research team has also identified many geographical entities near the landing site using high-resolution images of Mars. According to relevant rules, the International Astronomical Union has named 22 of the geographical entities after the historical and cultural villages and towns in China with a population of less than 100,000.
According to the CNSA, the Tianwen-1 orbiter had achieved global remote sensing detection on Mars by June 29, 2022. So far, it has been operating for more than 1,000 days in good condition and continuing to accumulate remote sensing raw data. The rover Zhurong, currently in dormancy, travelled 1,921 metres on the red planet.
Overall, the global images of Mars released by China’s first exploration mission and the scientific data it collected will significantly contribute to humanity’s in-depth knowledge of Mars.