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China unveils a rare selfie of its satellite orbiting Mars

It’s rare enough to point it out: China gave news of its Martian satellite twice in one month. And too bad if the Lunar New Year celebrations are in full swing!

For Xi Jinping, the Chinese New Year is also a golden opportunity to promote his country’s successes around the world. And in this period so prosperous for aerospace, space was necessarily on the program; yesterday, the National Space Administration of China (CNSA) unveiled a 30-second selfie video captured by Tianwen-1, a satellite currently in orbit around Mars.

It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the anatomy of this machine that has been in place for almost a year. We can make out the body of the craft, a few rotating solar panels, and even the surface of the red planet scrolling in the background. This is the second set of images released by the CNSA, following the release of a series of jaw-dropping “selfies” last month.

The second nation to conquer Mars

The Verge recalls that Tianwen-1 arrived with a rover, which successfully landed on Mars in May 2021. It then became the second nation in the world, after the United States, to have deposited a robot there. The latter also became the sixth Martian rover; the top five were all Americans.

Tianwen-1 rover Zhurong Mars
Credits: CNSA

Even if it is not as advanced as Perseverance, the darling of NASA, it still makes Chinese astronomers happy. Indeed, it was only supposed to operate for three months in total; but as he begins to approach his first year of wanderings, with more than 1400 meters covered in total, he is still doing like a charm and continues to push the limits of his mission. A longevity that has already enabled him to recover more than 540 GB of scientific data.

For once, it is always interesting to be able to lay eyes on equipment from Chinese aerospace; these are indeed rather rare images. Unlike NASA, which takes its popularization and communication mission very seriously, its Chinese counterpart is generally more discreet, especially with Europe and the United States.

A positioning that is understandable, however, knowing that this is an increasingly strategic sector where China is placing its pawns at full speed. She thus hopes to challenge the current leadership of her best American enemy, in a context where diplomatic relations with Uncle Sam are far from being in good shape.

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