Curiosity and Opportunity, the two functioning rovers currently on Mars, may soon welcome a new friend from China. The country's State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense revealed concept images for a Mars probe, lander and rover on Tuesday.
With its delicate butterflylike design aesthetic, the rover is the most eye-catching of the group. China intends to send the rover to the Red Planet within five years, according to the official Chinese news service, Xinhua.
The rover looks like a delicate insect, with four solar "wings" extending around the central body. It will weigh about 440 pounds (200 kilograms). Compare that with NASA's Curiosity rover at nearly 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms). China's rover will be closer in design to NASA's earlier and smaller rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
Details are scarce, but we do know China's rover is intended to spend three Martian months exploring an area in Mars' northern hemisphere. NASA's Curiosity rover is located near the planet's equator, while the Opportunity rover calls the southern hemisphere home. Despite sharing a planet that clocks in at half the diameter of Earth, it's unlikely the rovers will ever meet.
A public competition to name the rover is under way. I'm rooting for "Butterfly." China's lunar rover, which landed on the moon in 2013, was called "Jade Rabbit," so an animal name is a real possibility for the new machine.