The China National Space Administration released video footage on Friday that captured Tianwen-1’s very first encounter with Mars, marking a significant milestone for Beijing’s growing space missions.
Published by state broadcaster CCTV, the video recording documents Mars’ surface throughout the course of an entire Martian day, showing the planet’s rocky terrain fading from white to black.
Multiple craters and the planet’s thin atmosphere can also be seen in video captured by the space probe moments after entering Mars’ orbit on Wednesday. Officials noted in a release that a “slight vibration” seen in the video was caused by the craft’s engine being ignited.
Also visible in the camera’s scope is the probe’s solar wing and directional antenna, according to the agency, which indicated the video release was part of China’s bid to welcome the Lunar New Year.
The release of the video recording came a few days after the Chinese space agency published a black-and-white photo of Mars as a means to confirm the probe had indeed entered the Martian orbit.
The agency previously indicated the image was snapped at a distance of 2.2 million kilometres from Mars, highlighting the photo was a view of the Mars Asidalia Plain, the Cluse Plain and the Zi Meridian Plateau, among other landforms.
China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, launched aboard a Long March 5 Y-4 carrier rocket, carries with it an orbiter, a lander and a 530-pound rover that will explore the Utopia Planitia basin. Following its May touchdown on the Martian surface, the probe will begin a three-month study of the planet’s soil and atmosphere while searching for signs of alien life.
Tianwen-1 won’t be alone on the red planet, as the spacecraft will be joined by the United Arab Emirates’ Al-Amal probe and the US’ Perseverance rover, scheduled to arrive on February 18, if all goes according to plan.
Tianwen-1’s success places the Chinese space program one step closer to the country’s aim to establish its own space station by 2022, as well as eventually putting an astronaut back on the moon.