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China lands on Mars in latest advance for its space program

China lands a spacecraft on Mars for the first time in the latest advance for its space program.

The official Xinhua News Agency says Saturday that the lander had touched down, citing the China National Space Administration.

Plans call for a rover to stay in the lander for a few days of diagnostic tests before rolling down a ramp to explore an icy area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia. It will join an American one that arrived at the red planet in February.

Visitors pass by an exhibition depicting rovers on Mars in Beijing on Friday, May 14, 2021. China says its Mars probe and accompanying rover are to land on the red planet sometime between early Saturday morning and Wednesday Beijing time. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China’s first Mars landing follows its launch last month of the main section of what will be a permanent space station and a mission that brought back rocks from the moon late last year.

“China has left a footprint on Mars for the first time, an important step for our country’s space exploration,” Xinhua says in announcing the landing on one of its social media accounts.

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