China’s Mars Orbiter Sends Back Selfie Video for the Lunar New Year
The Chinese Mars orbiter Tianwen-1 has sent back a selfie video that shows its orbit around Red Planet. The clip was published in celebration of the Lunar New Year and shows both the orbiter and Mars below it as it zooms around the planet.
A Timelapse Video Selfie
Xinhua News, a Chinese state-affiliated media source, published the video on Monday, the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The video was provided by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and shows the orbiter’s engine, propellant tank, altitude controller, and other components. Xinhua says that the video proves that the Tianwen-1 is in “good condition.”
China’s flag can be seen prominently placed in the center-left of the frame (very likely on purpose) as the orbiter’s solar array moves in concert with the sun’s direction.
China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 extended festival greetings to the Chinese people with stunning video footage captured by a camera on its orbiter to snap selfies above the red planet on Monday, the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year https://t.co/6lCYTk7zEf pic.twitter.com/GfSe3tBZEJ
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) January 31, 2022
The Tianwen-1 is Nearing its One-Year Anniversary
China’s Tianwen-1 is closing in on one year of orbiting Mars as it reached the Red Planet on February 10, 2021. Initially launched on July 23, 2020, the orbiter has been working for 557 consecutive days and has sent back 600GB of science data according to the CNSA.
The Tianwen-1 took the trip to Mars with the Zhurong Rover, which has been deployed on the planet for 255 Martian days and has driven a total of 1,524 meters on the surface. In early January, that travel distance was 1,400 meters and the CNSA said that the rover had already outlived its three-month life expectancy. Now into February, the rover adds another month and 124 more meters traveled to those marks.
Also last month, China published several other photos of the Tianwen-1 in a move that is far more transparent than the country normally is with regard to its space program; The Verge notes that China is fairly vague when it comes to the information it chooses to release about launches and its spacecraft.
Notably, the Zhurong Rover has a detachable camera that allowed it to take a photo of itself from an angle that is different from those captured by NASA’s Mars rovers.
China’s repeated statements to the health of the Tianwen-1 and the Zhurong rover point to the likelihood that this is far from the last time the CNSA will share photos and video captured from the mission. After its conclusion, China is currently working on another mission, likely to be named Tianwen-2, that will aim to collect rock samples from Mars and return them to Earth in 2030.