China's Tianwen-1 Mars probe beamed back this must-see video

China's Tianwen-1 probe has beamed back new video of its orbit around Mars, ahead of what's going to be a relatively busy few months of space traffic around the red planet. The video, released by the China National Space Administration (CNSA), follows the probe's first photo of Mars which was shared earlier this month, after it completed its roughly seven month trip from Earth.

Tianwen-1 launched on July 23, 2020, and in fact consists of several components rather that just a single spacecraft. On the one hand, there's the Orbiter, which is designed to give a bird's eye view of Mars with a battery of sensors and instruments. It's what which, so far, has returned footage of the red planet.

The Rover, meanwhile, is designed to be dispatched to the surface of the planet. There, it will unfurl tools like a ground-penetrating radar, magnetic field detector, multi-spectrum camera, and surface compound detector, to take readings of the ground and what's underneath it. However, that process isn't scheduled to start until May or June 2021, as the Orbiter needs to gather information on a refined target landing zone first.

For that, the Orbiter will use its medium-resolution camera – that has a resolution of around 328 feet from around a 250 mile orbit – and the high-resolution camera, which increases resolution to under 7 feet from that same distance. The CNSA's new video actually relies on still images taken sequentially by the Engineering Survey Sub-System on the solar panel wing and tracking antenna, China-backed media CCTV Plus reports, with a single shot once every 3 seconds for roughly half an hour.

The result is lower resolution than the images that will later be gathered to plan the Rover landing. In fact, the Engineering Survey Sub-System is actually intended to monitor the Orbiter itself, allowing for things like the deployment of the solar panels to be observed.

Still, it's enough to see a new view of Mars from the so-far successful mission. According to the CNSA, the clip was captured when Tianwen-1 was roughly 250 miles away from the planet's surface at its closest point. It shows it entering elliptical orbit, and some of the hardware emerging from the Orbiter.

Tianwen-1's Rover is destined for a one-way trip, and isn't designed to return either to the Orbiter or Earth. However – much like NASA intends to do with Perseverance, its own Mars rover which is currently en-route – the CNSA aims to gather samples for future collection by another mission. That's been proposed for sometime in the 2030s, where a further spacecraft will be dispatched to gather up the soil and rock samples Tianwen-1 has stored.

Perseverance will be the last of three simultaneous projects to send spacecraft to Mars to arrive at the planet. The UAE's spacecraft has already reached orbit.