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'Nine minutes of terror' as China becomes second country to land on Mars

·2-min read

China has landed a spacecraft on Mars for the first time, become the second country to arrive on the Red Planet.

The Tianwen-1 vessel has touched down in an icy area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia.

On social media, the official Xinhua news agency declared: "China has left a footprint on Mars for the first time, an important step for our country's space exploration."

Meanwhile, China Space News said there was "nine minutes of terror" as the landing module entered the martian atmosphere, decelerating and slowly descending to the surface.

A solar-powered rover called Zhurong, which is about the size of a small car, will now survey the landing site before conducting inspections.

It is named after a mythical Chinese god of fire and is equipped with six scientific instruments, including a high-resolution topography camera.

A ground-penetrating radar is set to look for signs of ancient life and sub-surface water and ice.

Tianwen-1 (which means "Questions to Heaven" in English) blasted off from the southern Chinese island of Hainan last July.

It reached the Red Planet in February and had been in orbit since.

America's Perseverance rover successfully touched down in February in a huge depression known as Jezero Crater, which is about 1,242 miles (2,000km) away from Utopia Planitia.

Another spacecraft launched by the United Arab Emirates is currently orbiting above Mars and is gathering data on its weather and atmosphere, but is not designed to make a landing.

According to Xinhua, China is "not looking to compete for leadership in space", but is committed to "unveiling the secrets of the universe and contributing to humanity's peaceful use of space".

Beijing has landed on the moon before, but successfully touching down on Mars is a much more difficult undertaking.