Here’s the first ‘selfie’ of China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft on its way to Mars
This is our first look at ChinaSpaceship on the way to Mars. Against the black background of eternal emptiness, but shining in the sun, Tianwen-1 has its solar panels. , is traveling away from Earth and is scheduled to reach the red planet in February 2021 and make a controlled landing in May.
The image was released by the Chinese Space Agency (CNSA) and the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) on the National Day of the People’s Republic of China. In a blog post, the team writes that the probe is now almost 15 million kilometers from Earth and “in good condition”. The post describes how the gold orbiter and silver lander “glow brightly” and shows China’s national flag, which can be seen in the lower right corner of the probe.
It is also claimed to be the first “space self-portrait” by a Chinese probe. It’s a selfie. From a spaceship. On the way to Mars.
2020 is not that bad I think.
To take the picture, Tianwen-1 released a tiny wide-angle camera. You can see it hurled away from the spaceship. As it departed, it took a picture every second and then relayed it back to the spaceship, which relayed it back to Earth. The camera has had a single mission, and by the time it reaches another planetary body it is doomed to drift aimlessly in space.
Sad news for the camera, but it does did at least get some good shots.
The post also describes the start of Chang’e 5, the next Chinese lunar exploration mission, which should start “at the end of this year”. An official date has not yet been announced, but the mission plans to return samples from the lunar surface back to Earth for examination.
h / t to Andrew Jones on Twitter.