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China begins to search for ice on Mars after its lander joins America on the Red Planet

China’s Mars rover is preparing to drive onto the surface of the Red Planet to search for signs of life and ice that could sustain a future human colony.

The six-wheeled Zhurong robot touched down safely early Saturday morning in its lander - a feat only achieved by Russia and the US.

It joins its American counterpart, the Perseverance rover, which arrived in February.

The Chinese rover, named after a god of fire, will shelter in its lander for the coming days while diagnostic tests are run.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called the landing “outstanding”, adding that it will leave the “mark of the Chinese on Mars for the first time”.

"You were brave enough for the challenge, pursued excellence and placed our country in the advanced ranks of planetary exploration," he said.

China’s mission is particularly impressive given that it aims to do in one step what took NASA several decades.

After successfully getting into orbit and landing the rover, the final hurdle is moving it across the planet. It would make China the first country to carry out the three operations during its first mission.

The venture is part of a new push by China to compete as a space power. It launched the main part of what will become a permanent space station in April, with hopes of having it crewed by 2022. The country has also sent astronauts into space and powered probes to the Moon.

A new rush by global powers to explore space and Mars in particular has been dubbed a “space race 2.0”. This year two other missions for Mars, one from the United Arab Emirates and US, were launched.

The UEA’s mission will stay in orbit after arriving in February to study Mars' atmosphere for an entire Martian year, or 657 Earth days.

Zhurong will then roll down the lander’s ramp onto Utopia Planitia, an icy area of Mars.

It will then explore the planet's surface, surveying the local geology and environment, with the goal of better understanding the distribution of ice, which future human colonists could use to sustain themselves.

Around the size of a small car, Zhurong has sensors to gauge the atmosphere and magnetic sphere and a ground-penetrating radar. It is expected to be deployed for 90 days, and will also search for evidence of life.

The successful landing marked an exceptional achievement for the Chinese Space programme and its Tianwen-1 mission.

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