When the landing module with the rover touched down on the surface of Mars on Saturday morning, there was applause from the control station in Beijing and a short hug.

There was no frenetic jubilation - the scientists of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) were too focused to successfully complete the country's planned rise to one of the “leading nations in interplanetary exploration”.

With these words, China's President Xi Jinping celebrated the People's Republic's greatest success in space travel to date.

Hendrik Ankenbrand

Business correspondent for China based in Shanghai.

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    The American authority NASA had already set up a landing module on the surface of Mars in 1976. In 1997, the Americans landed a small rover the size of a computer on Mars that took hundreds of pictures of the red planet. But China's researchers are proud that they accomplished what took the United States decades to do in a relatively short time - and that the orbit and landing on Mars took place in a single mission.

    The probe Tianwen-1 was launched on July 23 of last year with the Long March 5 launcher and reached the orbit of Mars on February 10. The name Tianwen comes from a poem from the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC) and means "questions to heaven". The rover Zhurong, named after a fire god, is now supposed to provide answers - perhaps also to the question of whether life is possible on Mars. Because a population of the planet that was once so similar to Earth does not want to leave the leadership of the billionaire people China to NASA and the American Mars adventurer and Tesla billionaire Elon Musk. Initially, however, the Mars landing should give the country a reputation in the world. How serious it is China to invest in the exploration of the planet became abundantly clear by 2019 at the latest,when a 150 million yuan (€ 19 million) site was opened in the Chinese province of Qinghai to simulate the surface of Mars.

    The successful landing should now stand for the claim to catch up with the Americans in space travel. This left a "Chinese imprint" on the planet, said Xi Jinping on Saturday. The president sent Vice Prime Ministers Han Zheng and Liu He to the control station. The rover Zhurong is now supposed to take pictures of the surface of Mars and tests on its own technology and take off again after about 90 days on Mars (which are almost 40 minutes longer than on Earth).