Now That China Has Landed on Mars, the U.S. Doesn’t “Own Space Anymore”

On Saturday morning, China time, the China National Space Administration was able to report on the success of the mission of the Tianwen-1 probe, which landed on Mars. China has become the second nation to make a soft landing on the Red Planet and the third to make it all the way there.
Render of the lander from the Tianwen-1 probe, which made a soft landing on Mars, May 15, 2021 1 photo
The Tianwen-1 probe was launched in July 2020 and, after a seven-month journey, arrived in orbit. The probe carried an orbiter, a lander, and rover, and spent another two months in orbit, searching for a place to land. That was achieved on May 15, with the lander reporting back home 17 minutes after it had touched down in the Northern hemisphere.

China is officially the second country after the United States to make a soft landing and report back on Earth. The rover is currently assessing the environment in view of setting out to explore it.

The news is a historical one, and it’s not without consequence to the United States, SpaceNews reports. Independent Maine Senator Angus King, who also serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces, which oversees the Pentagon’s space, nuclear and strategic deterrence programs, believes it heralds a new era in space exploration. Specifically, one in which the U.S. no longer has the lead.

“This landing reinforces the point that we don’t own space any more,” King told reporters. He said that the U.S. had been in the lead in space exploration for years, but that is changing. And that is, according to him, exactly why the U.S. has the Space Force.

“[China has shown] tremendous level of technological sophistication and ability,” the Senator explained. “If they can land a rover on Mars, there’s a lot of other things they can do that might not be so benevolent.”

That said, King believes in nations working together, abiding by a very strict set of rules. Space exploration doesn’t have internationally recognized rules yet, but it should, and soon. Once they’re established, nations should work together, King said, adding that he didn’t believe in a us vs. them-type of approach.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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