Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

This file image made available by the China National Space Administration on Dec. 16, 2020, shows the Tianwen-1 probe en route to Mars.

The Associated Press

A Chinese spacecraft descended through the thin Martian atmosphere and landed safely on a large plain on Saturday morning, state media reported, accomplishing a feat that only two other nations have before. (In the United States, it was still Friday – 7:18 p.m. Eastern time – when the spacecraft touched down.)

The landing follows China’s launch last month of the core module of a new orbiting space station and a successful mission in December that collected nearly 4 pounds of rocks and soil from the moon and brought them back to Earth. Next month, the country’s space program plans to send three astronauts back to space, inaugurating what could become a regular Chinese presence in Earth’s orbit.

Just by arriving at Mars and orbiting the planet in February, China’s space program confirmed its place among the top tier of agencies exploring the solar system. Now that it has executed a landing – with a deployment of a rover still to come – it has established itself as a principal contender in what some view as a new era of space competition.

Story continues below advertisement

The Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, said that the mission had “spectacularly conquered a new major milestone” with its landing.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, offered his congratulations to the Chinese. “I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity’s understanding of the Red Planet,” he wrote on Twitter.

Until Friday, the China National Space Administration had said little about its plans for the landing, in keeping with its usual secrecy involving operations. The news of the impending landing, however, began to spill out on social media and in official news reports, signalling that the landing was imminent.

In a virtual conference organized by the social media platform Weibo on Friday, several scientists debated the reasons to explore Mars, with one saying that the planet’s evolution could hold lessons for changes happening on Earth now.

“The purpose is to better protect our Earth itself,” Jiao Weixin, a professor of geophysics at Peking University, said in the forum. “I think this is the most fundamental purpose of our deep space exploration.”

The Chinese space agency has also highlighted international collaboration on the Tianwen-1 mission including contributions from the Europe Space Agency, Argentina, France and Austria.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies