A Chinese orbiter has mapped the entire surface of Mars

China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter has imaged the entire surface of Mars, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced this week† The orbiter, which traveled to Mars with the rover Zhurong, arrived on Mars in February 2021 and has collected images of the planet’s surface as part of a global survey.

During its time on the red planet, the Tianwen-1 orbiter made 1,344 passes around the planet and made observations with scientific instruments, including cameras, magnetometers, spectrometers and a radar instrument. The orbiter has been in operation for 706 days, during which time the CNSA has imaged the entire surface with its medium-resolution camera.

Image of Mars surface taken by Tianwen-1 orbiter.
Image of Mars surface taken by Tianwen-1 orbiter. CNSA/PEC

Images collected by the orbiter were shared by space journalist Andrew Jones on Twitter and show a selection of views of the red planet’s surface taken from orbit – including impact craters and other terrain features.

Tianwen-1 has completed a global imaging of Mars with its medium-resolution camera after circumnavigating the Red Planet 1,344 times. Tianwen-1 was launched in July 2020 and entered Mars orbit in February 2021. Images: CNSA/PEChttps://t.co/LBNqejfu9W pic.twitter.com/UvW9WGjp0Y

— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) June 29, 2022

The Tianwen-1 mission consists of three parts: the orbiter that created these images, the rover Zhurongand a lander that brought the rover to the surface. The rover has also been busy, traveling nearly 2,000 meters around the planet in the Utopia Planitia region. However, it is getting colder in this area, so the rover was put into dormancy in May and will be reactivated in December once temperatures rise.

Both the rover and orbiter have now completed their primary missions, but since both are still operational, they will continue to be used for future explorations. CNSA says it has collected 1,040 GB of data from them so far, including orbiter data shared with other space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Some commentators have argued that this sharing of data suggests that the famous mysterious CNSA is becoming increasingly open about her work, as evidenced by a white paper released in 2021, outlining some of the agency’s past and future plans. The CNSA also announced that its Zhurong rover recently conducted an in-orbit relay communications test with an ESA orbiter, the Mars Express spacecraft.

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