During routine survey operations for hazardous asteroids, NASA’s asteroid camera has spotted China’s Tianwen-1 Mars spacecraft speeding away from the Earth.
The China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission was launched on Thursday to begin a seven-month journey to the Red Planet, the space.com reported.
The spacecraft consists of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, all packed together into what China hopes will become its first successful Mars mission.
The views were captured by a program run by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which scans huge swaths of the sky for space rocks in order to gather enough observations for astronomers to map each object’s path in case one may come a little too close for comfort.
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office took to Twitter and wrote: “During routine survey operations for hazardous #asteroids for @NASA’s #PlanetaryDefense Coordination Office, the @fallingstarIfa ATLAS-MLO telescope spotted China’s Tianwen-1 on its way to #Mars. Bon Voyage Tianwen-1!”
According to the space.com, the new animation of Tianwen-1 speeding away from Earth came from a facility at Mauna Loa on Hawaii Island that is one of a pair of Hawaiian observatories that make up the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or ATLAS.
The ATLAS observatories regularly identify new celestial objects, like the comet of the same name that dazzled skywatchers earlier this year before fizzling out.
But in this case, it was no celestial object that streaked across ATLAS’s view.
Instead, it was the second in a trio of highly anticipated spacecraft launching to Mars during this summer’s three-week window of orbital alignment.
China hopes that the Tianwen-1 mission’s three robotic components send home a bonanza of scientific data about Mars.