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Mars' Chinese ambitions are one step closer after successful land test

The test took place Thursday in the mountainous landscape of Hebei province, about an hour and a half drive north of Beijing. Chinese officials said the landscape reflects the slopes and craters of Mars.

The truck is suspended 70 meters above the ground on 36 huge steel cables that rise up to 140 meters (460 feet) in the air. The test began with a strong boom, and the spacecraft turned and then went down, reaching a stop a few meters less than the earth.

How to land safely on Mars is one of the biggest challenges facing the Mars mission, which officials said should be launched next year. If successful, China will be only the second country in the world to achieve the feat. NASA is also planning a Mars mission next year.

According to officials, the test is designed to test the lander's ability to fly and avoid obstacles, as well as to observe how well he worked in a similar environment with Mars, where gravity drawing is one-third of Earth's gravity.

China has invited diplomats and international media, including CNN, to witness the test. Beijing is pushing for more involvement in international space projects, but the US is strictly limiting how NASA can work with China's space program.

The Chinese government told dozens of watch journalists that the test was successful.

"(This simulation) is a critical time for the development of the Mars probe," said Wu Yanghua, deputy administrator of China's National Space Administration.

Missile test is key

China deployed a powerful Long March 5 rocket to launch the Mars spacecraft next year. However, the test of this rocket failed in 201
7, threatening to slow down the country's pressure to become a leading space power. Reports suggest that another test will be held before the end of this year.

China was late in the space race – it sent its first satellite into space until 1970, just after the United States released the first man on the moon.

  A landing gear is raised during testing. in Hualai.

But over the decades, China has pumped billions of dollars and other resources into research and training. In addition to the Mars mission, China is actively pursuing the lunar exploration.

Chang & # 39; e-4 lunar probe successfully hit the far side of the moon in January, a historic first and major achievement for China's space program.

In 2020, the next lunar mission is expected to land on the moon, collect samples and return to Earth as preliminary plans for a piloted lunar mission in the 2030s are prepared. If successful, China will become only the second country after the United States to place a citizen on the moon.

It also plans to launch a 20-meter space station around 2022. CNN & # 39; s David Culver and Lily Lee reported from Hebei, China.

Katie Hunt writes from London.

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