Sharing the image, NASA's Asteroid Watch tweeted: "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".
NASA is sending its Perseverance rover to collect samples, search for signs of past microbial life and even unleash an experimental helicopter.Perseverance is scheduled to launch on July 17, 2020, kicking off a months-long journey through space before arriving at the red planet in February 2021.
China launched a Long March 5 Y-4 rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in the southern island province of Hainan on Thursday. "China joining (the Mars race) will change the situation dominated by the U.S. for half a century", the news agency AFP quoted Chen Lan, an independent analyst at GoTaikonauts, which specialises in China's space programme, as saying.
The UAE Space Agency also separately tweeted its congratulations following the launch and said it was "excited to be exploring Mars alongside this nation".
America's six-legged Perseverance rover is the size of a small auto and has the goal of storing rock and soil samples that can be returned to Earth in future missions. China took its first step in planetary exploration to Mars.More news: Nascar races in Kansas tonight/on WBUT
"We want to learn about Mars, and the more missions that are aimed at learning about Mars, the better off we are", he said.
The report also stated that the Tianwen-1 mission has many scientific goals, which include determining the composition of Mars' surface material by studying geology, topography, climate and environment on the Red Planet.
More than 40 Mars missions have been launched since the 1960s, but only about half have succeeded. The mission is expected to launch between July 20 and 25. With the second, China became the first country to make a successful soft landing on the far side.
China previously attempted to reach Mars but the mission failed after the spacecraft burned up in the atmosphere after taking off from Kazakhstan.
Landing on Mars is notoriously hard.More news: India bans 47 apps cloning restricted Chinese services
Still, Logsdon noted that US legislation prohibits NASA from working with China. "I'm highly skeptical. There's a lot of difference between the first explorers going to Mars and tourism".
Though small compared to America's hulking, car-sized 1,025-kilogram (2,260-pound) Perseverance, it's nearly twice as big as the two rovers China has sent to the moon in 2013 and 2019.
As Business Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported, all three missions are launching this summer to take advantage of a launch window that opens for a few months every two years, when Earth and Mars closely align - making for a dramatically shorter trip.
The probe, which is part of the Tianwen-1 (Questions to Heaven) mission, contains an orbiter, a lander, and a rover.More news: NYPD Releases Footage of Man Connected to Attack on Kelsey Grammer’s Daughter