China was able to successfully land their first spacecraft on Mars Friday night making China the third country to have reached the red planet behind the United States and the USSR, and perhaps sparking a new era of space competition.
China’s landing on Mars has followed several successes of the country's space exploration program. Last month China was able to retrieve nearly four pounds of rock and soil from the surface of the moon, and the country also has plans to send three astronauts into space in June of this year, further signifying China as a growing contender in regard to space exploration.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, expressed his enthusiasm for China’s success by stating on Twitter “Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet.”
The Chinese spacecraft carries a rover by the name of Zhurong, after the Chinese god of fire, and will begin the exploration of the planet within the coming weeks. The Chinese lander touched down in the region known as Utopia Planitia, which is believed to have once been a vast ocean, and after a mission conducted by NASA in 2016, scientists have concluded that there are large amounts of ice beneath the surface of this region.
The successful landing of a spacecraft on the Martian surface is a significant milestone for Chinese space exploration as the country could become a valuable asset for understanding the cosmos for the years to come.
Source: New York Times