A Chinese spacecraft enters Mars orbit on a mission to land a rover and collect data on underground water and possible signs of ancient life, state media says.
“China’s probe Tianwen-1 successfully entered the orbit around Mars on Wednesday after a nearly seven-month voyage from Earth,” the Xinhua News Agency says in a brief report.
The orbiter-rover combo became the second spacecraft in two days to reach the red planet. An orbiter from the United Arab Emirates led the way on Tuesday.
Next week, the US will try to land its Perseverance rover on the Martian surface. Only the US has successfully touched down on Mars — eight times beginning with two Viking missions. A lander and rover are in operation today.
All three Mars missions launched last July to take advantage of the planet’s close alignment with Earth that occurs only every two years.
The Chinese mission is the country’s most ambitious yet. If all goes as planned, the rover will separate from the spacecraft in a few months and attempt to touch down. China would then become only the second nation to successfully land a rover on Mars.
Tianwen, the title of an ancient poem, means “Quest for Heavenly Truth.”