New Year blessings from Mars as China releases footage from space probe

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s space agency released two videos providing a close-up glimpse of Mars on Friday, captured as its Tianwen-1 probe entered the red planet’s orbit, saying the spacecraft was sending a Lunar New Year greeting to Earth.

After a 6-1/2 month journey through space, the Tianwen-1 on Wednesday slowed to a speed at which it could be captured by the pull of Mars’ gravity and became the second spacecraft to reach the planet this month, with a U.S. probe set to arrive and immediately attempt a landing next week.

The two clips, lasting just under a minute, were the first released by the China National Space Administration of the probe entering orbit.

“The Tianwen-1’s New Year blessings came through from far-away Mars,” the CNSA said on Friday, the first day of the Lunar New Year.

The footage, shot from cameras attached to the uncrewed craft, shows it vibrating as its solar-powered thrusters are switched on to slow it down, with the spherical outline of Mars and even craters on the planet’s surface seen in the background as the probe hurtles past.

“The solar panels, directional antenna, Martian atmosphere and surface topography are clearly visible,” the CNSA said.

Reporting by Ryan Woo and Muyu Xu; Writing by Tom Daly; Editing by Alison Williams