Hello, Mars! China unveils 1st HD views from its Tianwen-1 spacecraft

China's Tianwen-1 mission has spent a month in orbit around Mars now and the photographs are already stunning.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) released three new images, two in black and white and one in color, on March 4. The new images are the spacecraft's first high-definition photos of Mars from orbit, making them the sharpest images to date as well.

CNSA offered scant details about the new photographs, although the color image shows the Red Planet's north pole and the two black and white images were taken from an altitude of about 220 miles (350 kilometers), according to a statement.

Related: China's Tianwen-1 Mars mission in photos

An image of the north pole of Mars taken by China's Tianwen-1 spacecraft. (Image credit: CNSA)

The color and black and white images were taken by two separate cameras, the statement explained.

The photographs mark a key stage of the mission, during which the spacecraft is scouting out the surface of the southern region of Utopia Planitia, the area in which China intends to land the rover portion of the Tianwen-1.

That landing is currently scheduled for May or June; the rover will spend about three months working on the Martian surface using its six instruments. If the landing is successful, the rover will become the second to begin work on the Red Planet this year, joining NASA's Perseverance rover that touched down on Feb. 18.

Meanwhile, the orbiter will continue circling the Red Planet gathering measurements from space with its own seven instruments.

China's Tianwen-1 mission to Mars consists of an orbiter, lander and rover. The mission launched toward the Red Planet in July 2020 and is the country's first attempt to land on Mars.

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Meghan Bartels
Senior Writer

Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.