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China delivers a stunning photo of Earth and the Moon from its Mars probe

Published Jul 29th, 2020 6:16PM EDT
china mars mission
Image: CNSA/Xinhua

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  • China’s mission to Mars took a moment to capture the Earth and Moon in its rearview mirror.
  • The mission will be the first Chinese rover mission to the Red Planet, but it also includes an orbiter.
  • NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to launch on July 30th.

China managed to launch its mission to Mars before NASA sends its Perseverance rover skyward, starting the mission on July 23rd. The Mars probe heading for the Red Planet right now will provide China with a wealth of data and observations of the alien world, but it’s still got a long, long way to go before it arrives.

In the meantime, the China National Space Administration took the time to gaze in its rearview and capture a fantastic image of the probe’s home planet and its moon. The image, which was published by the Xinhua news agency, is a friendly reminder that China is rapidly catching up to other world powers in the race to explore space.

As Xinhua explains, the photo was snapped on July 27th, and the spacecraft was cruising along at a distance of around 1.2 million kilometers from Earth. As you can see in the image, the Moon appears much larger than the more distant Earth.

The mission itself is a very big deal for China, as it will include not only an orbiter to monitor the planet from above but also a rover that will be sent to the surface to explore and analyze various things. It’s also the first Chinese rover mission to Mars, putting it on the same level as other space-faring world powers like the United States.

In a recent paper, the science team behind the Tianwen-1 mission revealed all the high-tech gear that is coming along for the ride:

There are 13 scientific payloads in the Tianwen-1 mission in total. The seven instruments on board the orbiter comprise two cameras, the Mars-Orbiting Subsurface Exploration Radar, Mars Mineralogy Spectrometer, Mars Magnetometer, Mars Ion and Neutral Particle Analyzer, and Mars Energetic Particle Analyzer. The six instruments installed on the rover comprise the Multispectral Camera, Terrain Camera, Mars-Rover Subsurface Exploration Radar, Mars Surface Composition Detector, Mars Magnetic Field Detector, and Mars Meteorology Monitor.

That’s a whole bunch of instruments, and China has some very specific goals for the mission. It hopes to map the Martian surface, examine the soil and distribution of ice across the planet, and even measure the thin Martian atmosphere and how it affects the climate of the planet.

Meanwhile, NASA’s Perseverance rover mission is slated for a launch on July 30th. The mission will including the rover itself as well as the first-ever Mars helicopter which will — if things go well — become the first aircraft to take to the skies on another planet.

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