China successfully lands rover on Mars, state media says

China has landed a space rover on Mars, the government announced, making it only the third nation behind the U.S. to land a craft on the planet.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) tweeted a picture of what it said was its Tianwen rover landing on the planet. Chinese state media also announced the landing. 

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The rover was launched on July 23 and entered Mars’s orbit in February. Chinese state media said the rover surveyed potential landing sites on Mars for over two months.

The landing is the latest in a string of successes for the Chinese space program; Beijing last month launched a core module of a new orbiting space station and in December retrieved samples of rocks and soil it collected on the moon. Three astronauts from China are scheduled to be sent back into space in June. 

However, it is China’s landing on Mars that solidifies Beijing’s spot on a short list of powers that could hold substantial presences in space.

“Tianwen-1, China’s first interplanetary expedition, has spectacularly conquered a new major milestone, with its lander-rover combination successfully soft-landing at the planned site in the southern part of a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia on Mars on early Saturday morning [local time],” wrote The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Chinese government.

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China’s first attempt to reach the red planet took place a decade ago when it failed to land the Yinghuo-1. The mission failed after the Russian rocket that was transporting the craft failed in flight.

Landing on Mars is particularly difficult due to the planet’s thin atmosphere, meaning crafts often come in to land on the planet at high speeds.

The United Arab Emirates successfully sent an orbiter to Mars earlier this year.

Updated at 9:42 p.m.