China’s unmanned Tianwen-1 mission has successfully mapped Mars, capturing images that cover the entire planet.
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced on Wednesday that the Tianwen-1 orbiter and the robotic rover Zhurong have accomplished their planned scientific exploration tasks.
The CNSA launched the mission in July 2020 to conduct a scientific investigation of Mars’ surface geology and internal structure.
The mission’s orbiter had been surveying the planet from space since its arrival in February 2021, while the rover was deployed on the surface in May 2021.
Tianwen-1, whose name means “Questions to Heaven,” was able to gather imagery data after circling the Red Planet 1,344 times in the last 706 days while Zhurong collected data on the surface. The mission transmitted about 1,040 gigabytes of medium-resolution visual data of the entire Martian surface back to Earth.
Among the orbiter’s significant captures was China’s first photographs of the Martian South Pole, where nearly all of the planet’s water resources are locked.
Data acquired from China’s rover in May 2022 suggested that water may have been on the planet from just 700 million years ago, which is much more recent than scientists thought.
Finding subsurface water is essential in establishing a planet’s potential for life and providing support for future human exploration.
Tianwen-1 also captured photographs of the 2,485-mile canyon Valles Marineris, impact craters Arabia Terra situated in the north of Mars, the edge of the Maunder crater and a top-down view of the large shield volcano Ascraeus Mons located in the Tharsis region.