China releases image of Mars ahead of Tianwen-1’s orbit entry

The Chinese spacecraft will arrive at the Red Planet less than 24 hours after UAE’s Hope probe

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Xinhua/Shutterstock (11747484b)
Photo released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) shows the first image of Mars captured by Mars probe Tianwen-1 from a distance of 2.2 million km (on the right), juxtaposed with a topographic map of Mars. China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 conducted its fourth orbital correction Friday night, according to the CNSA.
   The probe carried out the orbital correction at 8 p.m. (Beijing time), aiming to ensure that the probe achieves a sound planned rendezvous with Mars.
   The probe has traveled about 197 days in orbit, flying about 465 million km. It is currently 184 million km from Earth and 1.1 million km from Mars. All probe systems are in good working condition, the CNSA said.
China Mars Probe Tianwen 1 Fourth Orbital Correction Image - 05 Feb 2021
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China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission has beamed back its first image of the Red Planet, as it prepares to make its final approach.

The China National Space Administration released a grayscale image of Mars taken by the spacecraft, ahead of its orbit entry attempt on February 10.

The mission – which includes an orbiter, lander and a rover – was launched four days after the UAE's Hope probe was launched on July 19 last year.

US space agency Nasa also launched a rover to Mars at the end of July last year.

All were taking advantage of the narrow launch window that lasted between mid-July to early August.

The Hope probe is scheduled to be the first to arrive at the Red Planet on February 9, at 7.42pm Gulf Standard Time.

It is the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.

The Tianwen-1 mission is China’s second attempt at reaching Mars.

It will study soil and rock composition, the planet's atmosphere and search for signs of buried water ice.

In 2011, a Russian rocket carrying a Chinese spacecraft meant for Mars ended in failure due to engine problems mid-flight.

Omran Sharaf, UAE's Mars mission director, wished the Chinese space agency good luck.

"At the end of the day for us, the more missions that reach Mars, the better it is," he told The National.

“We never looked at this mission, or even our space sector in general, as a competition.

"For us, it was never a competition – it has always been collaboration.

"We do care about the success of the Chinese mission, but we don't really care if they come before or after us.

"We are paying attention to whether it's going to be successful or not and we hope that it is. It will add more value to the global effort of data generation towards better understanding Mars."

The UAE is set to become the fifth nation to reach the Red Planet, if orbit entry is successful.

China would become the sixth.

China launches spacecraft to Mars - in pictures