Mars: China Becomes Second Country to Reach Red Planet

China is officially the second country to land on Mars. Saturday morning local time, state media [...]

China is officially the second country to land on Mars. Saturday morning local time, state media reported the country successfully landed its Tianwen-1 spacecraft on the Red Planet, and will soon launch a rover to study the fourth rock's geology and climate. It's China's first solo mission to Mars, and the second country to successfully land a rover on the planet and maintain contact after a descent onto the planet.

The country's CGTN confirmed the news Friday night, sharing an animated gift of the lander carrying the Zhurong rover. China's National Space Administration (CNSA) is running point on the mission, one that is expected to last three months.

According to the Tianwen-1 mission website, the Zhurong rover will "study Mars' geological structure, soil characteristics and distribution of surface water ice, surface material composition, surface climate and environment, as well as its physical field and internal structure."

Zhurong landed on Mars' Utopia Planitia, a relatively flat area on the planet that was first explored by NASA's Viking 2 lander in 1976. Zhurong has six instruments on board, including two cameras, a magnetic field detector, a subsurface exploration radar, and a meteorology monitor. The mission officially launched from China last July.

Coincidentally enough, China's Tianwen-1 mission comes at the same time NASA is exploring Mars' Jezero crater in hopes of finding signs of microbial life.

"This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks," former acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a press release once NASA's Perseverance successfully landed on the planet. "The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation's spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet in the 2030s."

Cover photo by Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images