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China lands on Mars in major advance for its space ambitions

China landed a spacecraft on Mars on Saturday for the first time, in the latest advance for its space program.

Touchdown was at 7:18 a.m. Beijing time (23:18 GMT; 7:18 p.m. EDT), according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The distance between Earth and Mars caused a delay for mission control in Beijing to confirm the successful deployment of a conical heat shield, rockets and a giant parachute to control the craft's descent.

Scientists at the control center applauded and hugged each other after confirming that the spacecraft had landed successfully, CCTV's footage showed.

The state broadcaster also released an animation of the landing.

Plans call for a rover to stay in the lander for a few days of diagnostic tests before rolling down a ramp to explore an icy area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia.

It will join an American one that arrived on the red planet in February.

(Source: AP)

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