An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has successfully landed on the surface of Mars, state news agency Xinhua reported, making China the second space-faring nation after the United States to land on the Red Planet.
The Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed on a site on a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia, "leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time", Xinhua said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a message of congratulations to all the people involved in the mission.
"You were brave enough for the challenge, pursued excellence and placed our country in the advanced ranks of planetary exploration," he said.
The craft left its parked orbit about 1am Beijing time on Saturday (0300 AEST). The landing module separated from the orbiter three hours later and entered the Martian atmosphere, the official China Space News said.
It said the landing process consisted of "nine minutes of terror" as the module decelerated and then slowly descended.
The official landing time was 7.18am Beijing time, Xinhua said, citing the China National Space Administration. The rover took more than 17 minutes to unfold its solar panels and antenna and send signals to ground controllers more than 320 million kilometres away.
The Zhurong rover will survey the landing site before departing from its platform to conduct inspections. Named after a mythical Chinese god of fire, Zhurong has six scientific instruments including a high-resolution topography camera.
It will study the planet's surface soil and atmosphere. Zhurong will also look for signs of ancient life, including any sub-surface water and ice, using a ground-penetrating radar.
Tianwen-1, or "Questions to Heaven", after a Chinese poem written two millennia ago, is China's first independent mission to Mars. A probe co-launched with Russia in 2011 failed to leave the earth's orbit.
The five-tonne spacecraft blasted off from the southern Chinese island of Hainan in July last year, launched by the powerful Long March 5 rocket.
After more than six months in transit, Tianwen-1 reached the Red Planet in February where it had been in orbit since.
If Zhurong is successfully deployed, China would be the first country to orbit, land and release a rover in its maiden mission to Mars.
Tianwen-1 was one of three that reached Mars in February, with US rover Perseverance successfully touching down on February 18 in a huge depression called Jezero Crater, more than 2000 kilometres from Utopia Planitia.
Hope - the third spacecraft that arrived at Mars in February this year - is not designed to make a landing. Launched by the United Arab Emirates, it's orbiting above Mars gathering data on its weather and atmosphere.
The first successful landing was made by NASA's Viking 1 in July 1976 and then by Viking 2 in September that year. A Mars probe launched by the former Soviet Union landed in December 1971, but communication was lost seconds after landing.
NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted his congratulations, saying: "Together with the global science community, I look forward to the important contributions this mission will make to humanity's understanding of the Red Planet."
Reuters with AP
Australian Associated Press