Mars rover named after ancient god of fire
China named its first Mars rover Zhurong on Saturday after a figure in Chinese legend who was the god of fire in ancient times.
Announced at the opening ceremony of the 2021 China Space Conference in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, the China National Space Administration said the name represents the rover's symbolic task to ignite the hope of the nation's interplanetary exploration, encourage humanity's relentless adventure into the universe and urge humankind to keep pursuing self-transcendence.
The administration said that naming the rover after the ancient god of fire also symbolizes the integration of modern science and traditional culture and highlights the nation's spirit of exploration and confidence in its culture.
Zhurong, part of the ongoing Tianwen 1 mission, is scheduled to land on Mars next month.
If it touches down safely on the red planet and works as planned, Zhurong will be the sixth such vehicle deployed on Mars, following five predecessors launched by the United States.
If the semi-autonomous craft functions efficiently, it will work for at least three months and undertake comprehensive surveys of the planet.
The rover is 1.85 meters high and weighs about 240 kilograms. It has six wheels and four solar panels, and it will be able to move at a speed of 200 meters an hour on the Martian surface. It will carry six scientific instruments-including a multispectral camera, ground-penetrating radar and a meteorological sensor-which will allow it to obtain information about a wide range of factors, such as the composition of the planet's surface and the geological structure, climate and environment of Mars.
Tianwen 1, China's first independent Mars mission, began in July when it was launched atop a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province.
It is the world's 46th Mars exploration mission since October 1960, when the former Soviet Union launched the first Marsbound spacecraft. Only 19 of those missions have been successful.
Tianwen, or The Quest for Heavenly Truth, is an epic work by Qu Yuan, a renowned poet from the Chu Kingdom who lived during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).
The administration said that naming the mission after the poem was meant to illustrate China's determination to explore deep space and also implant a love of science in the nation's young people.
If Tianwen 1 can fulfill its objectives-orbiting the planet to make comprehensive observations, landing on the planet and deploying a rover to conduct tasks-it will become the first Mars expedition to accomplish all three goals with one probe.
The most recent rover to operate on Mars is the US' Perseverance, which started operations at the Jezero Crater in mid-February.