Tianwen-1 marks 2 years in Martian orbit

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It has been two years since China's Tianwen-1 probe slipped into orbit around Mars. The orbiter has carried scientific instruments on its journey and relayed a torrent of data to Earth, making contributions to many interplanetary exploration discoveries in that time.

But it has done far more than that. The China National Space Administration on Friday said that the Tianwen-1 orbiter was in good condition and would continue to perform multiple tasks related to the red planet.

What follows is a partial list of Tianwen-1's many accomplishments.

The Chinese Mars probe consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover. On Feb. 10, 2021, Tianwen-1 entered the Mars orbit after a nearly seven-month voyage from Earth, becoming the country's first satellite to orbit the planet.

On May 15, 2021, it touched down at its pre-selected landing area in Utopia Planitia, a vast Martian plain, marking China's first probe landing on the planet. A week later on May 22, 2021, the Mars rover Zhurong, which resembles a butterfly, drove down from its landing platform to the Martian surface. After that, the Tianwen-1 orbiter provided Zhurong with relay communications for nearly six months.

By Dec. 29, 2022, the orbiter had been operating for 687 Earth days, completing one Martian year.

Payloads on the orbiter, including advanced cameras and detectors, have beamed back abundant images of Mars over the past two years, and these images are now helping Chinese researchers to draw a high-resolution, full-color image of the planet, the space administration said.

The Tianwen-1 orbiter thoroughly studied the Martian surface. Even though it suspended explorations when the sun blocked communications with Earth between September and October 2021, it still offered useful engineering data for Chinese and foreign scientists during that period, and that data has contributed to several notable scientific research results.

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