The Chinese government announced Saturday that the first Chinese spacecraft on Mars will be named the traditional fire god Zhurong.
The spacecraft was aboard the Tianwen-1 probe, which entered Mars orbit on February 24, and is scheduled to land in May to search for evidence of life.
It is part of Chinese space plans that include the launch of a manned orbit station and the landing of a human on the moon. In 2019, China became the first country to land a spacecraft on the other side of the moon that had not yet been explored much, and in December it brought lunar rocks back to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.
The China National Space Administration said the spacecraft’s title matches the Chinese name for Mars – “Huo Xing” or Fire Star.
The new China News Agency (Xinhua) quoted CNS Deputy Director Wu Yanhua as saying that the name “refers to the lighting of the planetary exploration torch in China.”
The first candidate for a landing site is Utopia Planitia, a rocky plain where the US Viking 2 landing craft landed in 1976.
According to CNSA, Tianwen-1’s goals include analyzing and mapping the Martian surface and geology, finding water ice, and studying the climate and surface environment.
China will be the third country, after the former Soviet Union and the United States, to put a robotic vehicle on Mars.