China landed a spacecraft on the planet of Mars for the first time in the nation’s history, according to a report from official Chinese news outlets.
The technological achievement known as the Tianwen-1 mission was reported by the Xinhua News Agency.
“China has left a footprint on Mars for the first time, an important step for our country’s space exploration,” Xinhua said.
The Chinese rover would be the only other craft to land on the planet apart from those sent by NASA of the United States.
The unnamed craft carries a rover named Zhurong after the god of fire in Chinese folk tales.
Chinese scientists said part of the reason to explore Mars was to better understand our own planet.
“The purpose is to better protect our Earth itself,” Jiao Weixin, a professor of geophysics at Peking University. “I think this is the most fundamental purpose of our deep space exploration.”
Earlier in February NASA landed the rover Perseverance safely on Mars after a six month space trip. It was the ninth such trip to Mars from NASA. In April scientists were able to orchestrate the first object to make a controlled flight in the atmosphere of another planet with the helicopter named Ingenuity.
The Soviet Union was also able to land a spacecraft on Mars in 1976 but the mission failed soon after touching down on the planet.
Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told the Wall Street Journal that China has pointed political goals for its space program.
“China is presenting itself as an alternative,” said Cheng. “With regards to the moon and Mars, that is for political signaling, political demonstrations to show the world who has a more capable technological base, and who has a better political system.”
Here’s more about the space race between China and the U.S.:
China’s Zhurong vs. NASA’s Perseverance: Rover Tech in Mars Space Race | WSJ