China lands spacecraft on Mars for first time

BEIJING, May 15 (dpa): China has successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars for the first time, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The landing module of the Tianwen-1 spacecraft touched down on the surface of the Red Planet on Saturday morning (May 14) with the Zhurong rover on board.

Tianwen-1 took off from Earth on July 23 and reached the red planet’s orbit in February.

The flight is one of the most difficult that China has ever undertaken. The landing is a huge challenge, as Mars has its own atmosphere, unlike the moon.

If all goes to plan, the Zhurong rover, named for the Chinese god of fire, will investigate the Red Planet for at least three months.

The rovers weighs around 240 kilograms, has six wheels and four solar panels and can move on the surface of Mars at 200 metres per hour.

It carries scientific instruments that will be used to gather information about the composition of the planet's surface and its geological structure and climate.

With its first Mars landing, new space power China wants to catch up with the United States, which has already sent several research devices to roam the planet.

The Soviet Union had a successful landing in the 1970s, but ultimately lost contact with their probe.

Beijing has steadily expanded its space programme over the past few years and has missions planned for decades into the future.

The Chinese mission is one of three flights to Mars that launched from Earth last summer. The other launches were by the US and the United Arab Emirates.

The US Perseverance rover landed in February. - dpa
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