China becomes only second nation in history to land a rover on Mars

NBC News

By Tim Fitzsimons
People watch from a beach as the Long March 5 Y-4 rocket takes off from Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang, China, on July 23, 2020.China Daily / Reuters

After several months orbiting Mars, a Chinese rover successfully touched down on the Martian surface Friday, making China the second nation, after the United States, to achieve a soft landing on the red planet.

The rover, named Zhurong after the Chinese god of fire, is part of China's Tianwen-1 mission, which launched in July 2020. The landing is a major milestone for China's space agency, which has advanced rapidly in just a few decades.

Few details about the Tianwen-1 mission have been made public, but the Mars probe and its accompanying rover are designed to map the Martian surface and search for signs of life on the planet.

The China National Space Administration said in a statement Friday that the Tianwen-1 spacecraft "has functioned normally" since it's launch last year and has collected a "huge amount of scientific data."

The Zhurong rover landed Friday shortly after 7 p.m. ET in a region of Mars known as Utopia Planitia. The vast, icy plain was also where NASA's now-defunct Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.

Publish : 2021-05-15 13:34:00

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