China has managed this Saturday to land its Tianwen-1 probe on Mars, which marks a milestone as it is the first time it has managed to land a lander on a planet other than Earth, according to the state news agency Xinhua. Tianwen-1 lifted off from Earth on July 23 and reached orbit of the red planet in February.
The flight is one of the most difficult I have ever undertaken China. Landing is a big challenge, since Mars has its own atmosphere, unlike the Moon. If all goes according to plan, the probe-carrying Zhurong rover, named for the Chinese god of fire, will investigate Mars for at least three months.
The rovers weigh about 240 kilograms, have six wheels and four solar panels, and can move on the surface of Mars at 200 meters per hour, the DPA agency picks up. They carry 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 landing on Mars, China wants to catch up with the United States, which has already sent several research devices to tour the planet. The Soviet Union had a successful landing in the 1970s, but eventually lost contact with its probe. Beijing has steadily expanded its space program in recent years and has missions planned for decades to come.
The Chinese mission is one of three flights to Mars that launched from Earth last summer. The other launches were from the United Arab Emirates and USA, which managed to land the Perseverance rover in February.