HUAILAI, China (AP) — China invited international observers to a Thursday test of its Mars lander as it pushes for inclusion in more global space projects.

The demonstration of hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities was conducted at a site outside Beijing simulating conditions on the Red Planet, where the pull of gravity is about one-third that of Earth.

China plans to launch a lander and rover to Mars next year to explore parts of the planet in detail.

China's burgeoning space program achieved a lunar milestone earlier this year by landing a probe on the mysterious far side of the moon.

It has developed rapidly, especially since it conducted its first crewed mission in 2003 and has sought cooperation with space agencies from Europe and elsewhere.

The U.S., however, has banned most space cooperation with China out of national security concerns, keeping China from participating in the International Space Station.

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Despite that, China’s ambitions continue to grow as it seeks to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space and cement its position as a regional and global power.

Guests at Thursday’s event came from 19 countries and included the ambassadors of Brazil, France and Italy.

“This event is the first public appearance of China's Mars exploration mission, also an important measure for China to pragmatically carry out space international exchanges and cooperation,” the China National Space Administration said in a news release.

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