China’s Tianwen-1 probe has successfully completed its journey to Mars’ orbit, in the first stage of an ambitious effort to eventually land on the red planet and search for signs of life, according to state media.
It is the first time the country has successfully made the journey, after its attempt with Russia in 2011 failed to make it through Earth’s orbit.
But the hardest part of the mission will be managing to land a rover on the Martian surface, a complex feat that has so far only ever been achieved by America’s Nasa.
China plans to attempt to send its rover down to the surface in May, where they hope to search for underground water as well as evidence of possible ancient life.
The solar-powered rover weighs 529lb (240kg) and should operate for about three months, while the Tianwen-1 orbiter is expected to last two years.
The spacecraft blasted off from Earth seven months ago on board a Long March-5 carrier rocket from Hainan Island, China.
Last week Tianwen-1 – or the Quest Tor Heavenly Truth – sent back its first photo of Mars, taken 1.4 million miles away from the planet.
China is not the only nation to explore the red planet – they join the UAE’s Hope probe which arrived in orbit on Tuesday.
Both missions mark a busy month for Mars exploration, culminating with a third endeavour by Nasa.
The US space agency will try to safely land its Perseverance rover on Mars next week, where it too will seek out secrets of the red planet’s past.
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