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Chinese spacecraft takes pictures of Mars

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A Chinese spacecraft has taken images spanning the whole of Mars after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since the start of last year, state media reported this week.

China’s Tianwen-1, an unmanned spacecraft, reached the Red Planet in February 2021. It was the country’s first mission there. A robot vagabond has since been sent to the surface, while an orbiter studied the planet from space.

Among the images taken from space were the first Chinese photographs of the Martian south pole. The South Pole is where almost all of the planet’s water resources are blocked.

In 2018, an orbiter operated by the European Space Agency discovered water under the ice of the planet’s south pole. Finding water below the surface is important for studying the planet’s ability to support life. Such a discovery could also be useful for any human exploration there.

Other images from Tianwen-1 include photographs of the Valles Marineris, a 4,000 kilometer long canyon, and an area north of Mars called Arabia Terra. It has many impact craters – holes in the ground caused by meteorites or other objects.

Tianwen-1 also returned detailed images of the rim of the large Maunder crater, as well as a view of the 18,000-meter Ascraeus Mons, a large volcano first detected by NASA’s Mariner 9 spacecraft over 50 years ago.

I am John Russell.

Ryan Woo reported this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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words in this story

vagabond – nm vehicle used to explore the surface of a moon, planet, etc.

canyon – nm a deep valley with steep rock faces and often a stream or river running through it

volcano – nm a mountain with a hole in the top or side that sometimes sends out rocks, ash, lava, etc., in a sudden explosion (called an eruption)