China’s Zhurong spacecraft, carrying six scientific instruments, landed successfully on the surface of Mars, making China the second space-faring nation after the United States to land on the red planet, local and foreign media reported on Saturday. The six-wheel solar-powered Zhurong, named after a ‘god of fire’ in Chinese mythology, landed at the pre-selected area in Utopia Planitia on Mars, the Xinhua news agency reported. Later, it will be deployed from the lander for a three-month mission in search of signs or evidence of ancient life on Mars’ surface. The Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter will relay its signal to the rover during its mission and then conduct a global survey of the planet for one Martian year. The probe has spent three months in orbit reconnoitering the landing area before releasing the rover to the surface. SCIENTIFIC TEAM The orbiter was launched by a Long March 5 rocket from Wenchang space launch centre in Hainan on July 23 last year, and spent seven months en-route to Mars before entered its orbit in February. The spacecraft sent back its first photo of the planet from more than a million kilometres away. The probe is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter, the scientific team behind Tianwen-1 said before the rover’s landing. “No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way,” the team said. Tianwen-1 is one of three international Mars missions that launched last summer, along with NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February, and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe, which entered orbit around Mars, also in February. Unlike the US and China missions, the UAE probe is not intended to land on Mars – just study the planet from orbit. All three missions launched around the same time due to an alignment between Earth and Mars on the same side of the sun, making for a more efficient journey to the red planet. Tianwen-1, whose name means “Quest for Heavenly Truth,” hopes to gather important information about the Martian soil, geological structure, environment and atmosphere, and to search for signs of water.