China’s Mars probe to attempt landing in next few days

China is vying to become only the second nation to successfully land a rover on Mars, with its probe Tianwen-1 scheduled to attempt a landing between Saturday and Wednesday, the Chinese space authority announced on Friday.

Tianwen-1 took off from Earth on July 23 and reached the red planet’s orbit in February, the dpa news agency reported.

The flight is one of the most difficult ones that China has ever undertaken. The landing is a huge challenge, as Mars has its own atmosphere, unlike the moon.

With its first Mars landing, the new space power wants to catch up with the US, which has already sent several research devices to roam the planet.

Beijing has steadily expanded its space programme over the past few years and has missions planned for decades into the future.