China has joined with the United States in safely sending an unmanned lander to Mars.
The state news agency for China said a rover landed safely on a large plane on Mars early Saturday morning (around 7:18 p.m. ET / 4:18 p.m. PT Friday). It now joins the United States as the only countries to have visited the Red Planet.
China has stepped up its space activities. In February, it announced it was in orbit around Mars. Next month, the country’s space program plans to return three astronauts to space. This follows the collection of moon rocks and the launch of a key space statin component late last year.
The Global Times, a state newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, said the mission had “taken a dramatic new step forward” with his landing.
The landing raises issues for the US space program, which has had Mars and the moon practically to itself. But Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, was magnanimous, on Twitter. “Together with the global scientific community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to the understanding of humanity on the Red Planet,” he wrote on Twitter.