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China lands on Mars in latest advance for its space program

Visitors pass by an exhibition depicting rovers on Mars in Beijing
Visitors pass by an exhibition depicting Mars rovers Friday in Beijing.
(Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)

China has for the first time landed a spacecraft on Mars.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Saturday that the lander had touched down, citing the China National Space Administration.

China has launched the main module of its first permanent space station, which is expected to host astronauts on long-term missions.

Plans call for a rover to stay in the lander for a few days of diagnostic tests before rolling down a ramp to explore an icy area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia. It will join an American one that arrived at the planet in February.

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China’s first Mars landing follows its launch last month of the main section of what will be a permanent space station and a mission late last year that brought back rocks from the moon.

“China has left a footprint on Mars for the first time, an important step for our country’s space exploration,” Xinhua said in announcing the landing on social media.

The U.S. has had nine successful landings on Mars since 1976. The Soviet Union landed on the planet in 1971, but the mission failed after the craft stopped transmitting information soon after touchdown.

A rover and a tiny helicopter from the February U.S. landing are currently exploring Mars. NASA expects the rover in July to collect a sample from Mars, the first in a decade to be brought to Earth.


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