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China on Thursday successfully completed a crucial landing test in northern Hebei province ahead of a historic unmanned exploration mission to Mars next year, reports Reuters.

China is on track to launch its Mars mission, Zhang Kejian, head of the China National Space Administration, said on Thursday, speaking to foreign diplomats and the media before the test. The journey through space will take about seven months, while landing will take seven minutes, said Zhang Rongqiao, chief architect of the Mars exploration program.

China has developed the powerful Long March 5 rocket to transport the probe to Mars in 2020. The same Long March 5 rocket is meant to deliver the Chang’e-5 probe to the moon by the end of 2019 or early next year to bring back samples of lunar rocks.

The Chang’e-4 probe successfully touched down on the far side of the moon in January this year, a historic first and major achievement for China’s space program.

China expects to complete a modular space station around 2022.

In 2003, China became the third nation to put a man in space with its own rocket after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Since then, it has been racing to catch up with Russia and the United States and become a major space power by 2030.

 

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