China’s first probe to Mars on Tuesday sent a photo of the Earth and the Moon on its way to the Red Planet, the Chinese space agency said.
The image, which shows the two crescent planets lost in the vastness of space, was taken 1.2 million kilometers from Earth, three days after the launch of the Tianwen-1 mission.
The probe took off Thursday from the Wenchang launch center, on the tropical island of Hainan (south).
It is due to arrive in orbit of Mars in February 2021. It will first have to complete the long Earth-Mars journey in some seven months: a distance of about 55 million kilometers – or 1400 times around the world.
In the midst of rivalry with Washington, Beijing hopes to do in this first independent attempt almost everything the United States has achieved on several Mars missions since the 1960s: place a probe in orbit, land a lander, and bring out a remote-controlled robot to analyzes the Martian surface.
China already has experience in this area: it rolled two small robots on the Moon, the “Jade Rabbits” 1 and 2 – in 2013 and 2019 respectively. But the Earth-Mars distance is 140 times greater than the Earth-Moon path.
According to the Chinese space agency Tianwen-1 “has good flight conditions so far (..) and is operating normally”.