China’s space program landed a rover on Mars on its first attempt this weekend.
The China National Space Administration said the lander containing its Zhurong rover touched down on Mars’ Utopia Planitia, which is considered a great achievement on part of China’s space program.
The lander is expected to release the rover in the coming days to explore the surface of Mars.
Press in China lauding President Xi Jinping for his long held “space dream.” Xi, also congratulated all members who have participated in the Mars exploration mission, Tianwen-1.
The landing also drew praise from the head of science at the NASA and Elon Musk’s Tesla.
The nine-minute automated landing on Mars came with considerable difficulties given the planet’s thin atmosphere and the inability to communicate with Earth after the process is initiated.
Only the Americans have really mastered landing on Mars until now. With this landing, China becomes the second country to put a rover on Mars.
Significantly, it will now be a space race on Mars as the Chinese spacecraft has landed three months after the successful landing of US space agency NASA's Perseverance rover on red planet. The Perseverance and Zhurong explore different parts of Mars. While the Perseverance landed in a deep crater near the planet's equator called Jezero, the six-wheeled Zhurong rover would target Utopia Planitia, a vast terrain in the planet's northern hemisphere.
Previously the US, Russia, the European Union and India have succeeded in sending a spacecraft to Mars, regarded as the most complex space mission. China's mission to Mars followed successful missions to Moon including landing a rover.
Last month China has put into orbit a core module as part of its effort to build a space station as against International Space Station, (ISS), which is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies which included NASA, (US), Roscomos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada).
The Chinese spacecraft entered the Mars orbit in February after a journey of nearly seven months through space.