After China launched its first interplanetary Mars mission Tianwen-1 on 23 July 2020, the spacecraft has now captured some stunning images of the Earth and the Moon on its way to the Red Planet. The images were taken by Tianwen-1 just before making its first trajectory correction manoeuvre on 2 August.
The official Twitter account of the China Global Television Network (CGTN) shared the black and white picture captured by the spacecraft. As per the tweet, the image was taken “1.2 million kilometres away from our home planet” on 27 July.
Here comes the picture of #Earth and #moon taken from space!#China‘s Mars mission Tianwen-1 probe on Monday took a picture of the Earth and moon from 1.2 million kilometers away from our home planet. pic.twitter.com/fbbjsAmMpC
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) July 28, 2020
In the picture, both the planet and its natural satellite appear in the shape of hemispherical discs. While the Earth is nearer, the moon appears tiny for being further away. The images were captured by the optical navigation sensor present on the craft.
On 2 August, the spacecraft also managed a successful trajectory manoeuvre. Tianwen-1 needs to correct its trajectory and slow the craft occasionally in order to stay on course to enter Mars’ orbit. A report by Space.com added that it needs to perform four or five such adjustments in the course of its journey.
Powered with an orbiter, lander as well as a rover, Tianwen-1 is going to travel for seven months to reach Mars by February 2021. This is also when NASA’s Perseverance rover and United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mission will be reaching the red planet. However, Tianwen-1 will not immediately start deploying the rover or lander. It will study the land for landing and begin its scientific research from April.
The mission has been designed to study how water-ice gets distributed on Mars, along with studying how did the planet evolve to be what it is today and how did the habitability change on Mars along the years.