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China's Mars rover gets a fitting name: Zhurong, for god of fire

The Tianwen-1 mission hopes to deliver the rover to the surface of Mars in May.

Tianwen-1 sent back some high-def images of Mars.

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

China typically keeps many of its space program details under wraps, but over the weekend the China National Space Administration announced the name of the rover it's sent to Mars: Zhurong, for the god of fire from ancient Chinese mythology.

The name ties in well with the mission name of Tianwen-1 (roughly translated to "questions to Heaven") and with the Chinese name for Mars, Huoxing ("the planet of fire"). 

Zhurong is a six-wheeled, solar-powered rover that CNSA has described as "looking like a blue butterfly." The winning name was chosen from among 10 candidates after a public vote.    

"Fire brought warmth and brightness to the ancestors of humankind, and fire lit up human civilization," CNSA Deputy Director Wu Yanhua said in a statement. "Naming China's first Mars rover after the god of fire signifies igniting the flame of China's planetary exploration."

The Tianwen-1 mission launched in July 2020 and reached Mars orbit in February 2021. CNSA will attempt to deliver the rover to the planet's surface in May. The targeted landing site is in Utopia Planitia, a large plains area in the northern hemisphere.  

NASA has been celebrating the successes of its Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, which arrived on Mars in February. If the Tianwen-1 lander and rover make it through the tricky arrival process intact, China will become only the third country to successfully reach the Martian surface.

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