China's Tianwen-1 Mars probe delivers its first haunting look at the planet

The Chinese spacecraft is one of three arriving at the red planet this month. Its destination is near.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft sent back its first snapshot of Mars.


February is a busy month on Mars, with three spacecraft missions closing in on the red planet. China's Tianwen-1 is one of them, and it already has an eye on its new home in the solar system. The Chinese National Space Agency released Tianwen-1's first view of Mars on Friday.

CNSA described the image as "the first snapshot from the Chinese craft" in a statement, and said it was captured from about 1.4 million miles (2.2 million kilometers) away. The stark black and white photo shows Mars against the dark backdrop of space.

CNSA previously released a spacecraft "selfie" in September 2020 showing Tianwen-1 on its long flight.

The Chinese spacecraft has been making some corrections to its trajectory to bring it neatly into orbit on Feb. 10. The mission is made up of an orbiter, a lander and a rover. It will spend some time traveling around Mars before attempting the harrowing landing part of the mission.

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Joining Tianwen-1 in orbit will be NASA's Perseverance mission and the United Arab Emirate's Hope probe. Reaching orbit is a big deal for all of them, though NASA will the focus on Feb. 18 when it attempts to land the Perseverance rover on the surface.

Tianwen-1's snapshot of Mars is dramatic not just for its view of the red planet, but for the hopes and goals it represents.

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