China's Tianwen probe captures rare footage of rocky Mars surface after entering orbit

CHINA'S alien-hunting Mars probe has just started orbiting the planet and has revealed some amazing video footage.

The Tianwen-1 orbiter and rover successfully entered the Red Planet's orbit on Wednesday.

Space journalist Andrew Jones tweeted the footage and wrote: "So, here's quite a amazing video of Tianwen-1 passing Mars as it enters orbit."

It was taken on a solar array surveillance camera onboard the probe.

Jones also posted another clip of the streamed footage where you can just about make out Mars's atmosphere.

The grey footage shows off some of Mars's surface features as the spacecraft gets closer.

Jones tweeted: "Amazingly the atmosphere appears discernible as do surface features."

It's taken the Tianwen-1 orbiter about six months to reach Mars and it will soon be landing a probe on the planet's surface.

Tianwen-1 – or the Quest for Heavenly Truth – is a double orbiter and rover.

They will remain paired in orbit around Mars until May, when the rover separates to descend to the arid Martian surface.

If all goes well, China will become only the second country to land successfully on the red planet.

The aim is to explore for underground water as well as searching for evidence of possible ancient life.

China has kept much of the probe's journey tightly under wraps.

On February 5, China's space agency released the first snap from the spacecraft's high-powered camera.

The greyscale image was captured 1.36 million miles (2.2 million km) from Mars, according to the CNSA.

Tianwen-1 has travelled more than 300million miles (480million km) since it lifted off on a Long March 5 rocket in July 2020.

The orbiter is expected to last two years and will study the Red Planet's surface using its powerful cameras, as well as a sounding radar.

The UAE also entered its Hope probe into Mars's orbit this week and Nasa's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is expected to land on Mars on February 18.

The aim is for Perseverance to hunt for alien life and take some useful geological samples.

Nasa is hoping to land the rover in Mars's Jezero Crater.

Mars facts

Here’s what you need to know about the Red Planet…

  • Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun
  • It is named after the Roman god of war
  • The landmass of Mars is very similar to Earth but due to the difference in gravity you could jump three times higher there than you can here
  • Mars is mountainous and hosts the tallest mountain known in the Solar System called Olympus Mons, which is three times higher than Everest
  • Mars is considered to be the second most habitable planet after Earth
  • It takes the planet 687 Earth days to orbit the Sun
  • So far, there has been 39 missions to Mars but only 16 of these have been successful

In other space news, Elon Musk has warned that humanity may "self-extinguish" before we can colonise Mars.

Nasa is also due to land an alien-hunting probe on Mars this month.

And, dead alien civilisations could be littered all over our galaxy, according to a new study.

What are your thoughts on China's probe footage? Let us know in the comments…

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