An unmanned Chinese spacecraft landed on Mars on Saturday, making China solely the second nation after the US to efficiently land on the purple planet.

China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, presently in orbit round Mars, dropped its lander and rover – named Zhurong after a Chinese mythological god of fireside – on the floor of the planet early on Saturday, finishing a vital stage of the continued mission, described by Chinese state media as “extremely complicated with no ground control”.

The probe landed on a web site on an enormous lava plain often known as Utopia Planitia, “leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time”, official information company Xinhua reported.

The entry, descent and touchdown (EDL) took round 9 minutes, throughout which the pace of the craft was lowered from 20,000km per hour to zero, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) , the developer of the lander-rover combo of Tianwen-1, informed Chinese state media.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) mentioned in a press release that its rover Zhurong had efficiently landed on Mars after “nine minutes of terror”, which is how Nasa describes the time interval when scientists on Earth haven’t any management over the rover due to communication delays.

Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter, a lander and a rover, was launched from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of southern China’s Hainan island on July 23, 2020.

Tracking the course of the spacecraft, the Xinhua report mentioned that within the early hours of Saturday, the spacecraft started to descend from its parking orbit, and the entry capsule enclosing the lander and rover separated from the orbiter at about 4am.

“After flying for approximately three hours, the entry capsule hurtled towards the red planet and entered the Mars atmosphere at an altitude of 125km, initiating the riskiest phase of the whole mission,” the report added.

Around 100 metres above the planet’s floor, the craft hovered to determine obstacles and measured the slopes of the floor. “Avoiding the obstacles, it selected a relatively flat area and descended slowly, touching down safely with its four buffer legs.

“Earlier, research showed the landing site might be the edge of an ancient ocean or lake in the early history of Mars. Chinese scientists are looking for more evidence of water-ice and will share the data with their international counterparts.”

Last month, China despatched to area a key module for its everlasting area station, which it plans to finish by 2022 as a part of its formidable area programme.

The module, despatched to orbit by a rocket, can present electrical energy, and accommodate three astronauts for as much as six months.

In a commentary revealed on Saturday, Xinhua mentioned China was “not looking to compete for leadership in space” however was dedicated to “unveiling the secrets of the universe and contributing to humanity’s peaceful use of space”.

Tianwen-1 was considered one of three that reached Mars in February, with US rover Perseverance touching down on February 18; Hope – the third spacecraft that arrived on Mars in February this yr – is just not designed to make a touchdown. Launched by the United Arab Emirates, it’s presently orbiting above Mars gathering knowledge on its climate and environment.

“The first successful landing ever was made by Nasa’s Viking 1 in July 1976 and then by Viking 2 in September that year. A Mars probe launched by the former Soviet Union landed in December 1971, but communication was lost seconds after landing,” Reuters mentioned in a report.

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