China has released its first color map of Mars, captured by its own Tianwen-1 probe, marking a significant milestone in the country’s exploration of the Red Planet. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) unveiled the map at the China Space Day event in Hefei, Anhui province, on April 24.
Over 14,000 images were captured by the probe’s remote sensing cameras during an eight-month period from November 2021 to July 2022. The map will aid scientists in identifying features on the planet’s surface and assist in future exploration efforts, including China’s upcoming Tianwen-3 mission, which aims to collect a minimum of 500g of rocks through excavation, drilling, and remote sampling.
The Tianwen-1 mission, which consisted of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover named Zhurong, was launched on July 23, 2020, and landed on the southern region of the Utopia Planitia plain on May 15, 2021. The Zhurong rover carried out extensive exploration work for a period of four months, while the orbiter circled Mars 1,344 times over a year, serving as a communication relay between the planet and Earth.
The map has helped identify 22 features near the landing site, which have been named by the International Astronomical Union according to Chinese place names. CNSA stated that the map will help in enhancing our knowledge of Mars, as well as in improving future missions and exploration capabilities. With the unveiling of the map, China has joined the ranks of the United States and Europe in creating a color map of Mars.