An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the surface of Mars on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua reported, making China the second space-faring nation after the US to land on the Red Planet.
The Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed on a site on a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia, “leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time”, Xinhua said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a message of congratulations to all the people involved in the mission.
“You were brave enough for the challenge, pursued excellence and placed our country in the advanced ranks of planetary exploration,” he said. “Your outstanding achievement will forever be etched in the memories of the motherland.”
The craft left its parked orbit at about 1700 GMT on Friday (0100 Beijing time on Saturday). The landing module separated from the orbiter three hours later and entered the Martian atmosphere, the official China Space News said. It said the landing process consisted of “nine minutes of terror” as the module decelerates and then slowly descends.
The official landing time was 2318 GMT (0718 Beijing time), Xinhua said, citing the China National Space Administration. The rover took more than 17 minutes to unfold its solar panels and antenna and send signals to ground controllers more than 320 million kilometres away. The rover will now survey the landing site before departing from its platform.