China launches global naming campaign for country's first Mars rover
Published: Jul 24, 2020 02:32 PM

A Mars probe is launched on a Long March-5 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China's Hainan Province, July 23, 2020. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

Chinese space authorities are inviting the general public to share in the excitement of the successful launch of the Tianwen-1 Mars probe mission on Thursday by holding an official global naming campaign for the country's first Mars rover on Friday.

The global naming campaign was hosted by the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of China's National Space Administration in collaboration with the Tianwen-1 project contractors including the China Academy of Space Technology and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. China's search engine giant Baidu will undertake the naming activity on its Baidu App.

Photo: CCTV

China successfully launched the Tianwen-1 Mars probe that consists of an orbiter and lander/rover duo into planned Earth-Mars transfer orbit from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in South China's Hainan Province Thursday afternoon.

Within an hour of the launch, the search of relevant topics soared by 1,560 percent, indicating huge enthusiasm among netizens that also expressed their wishes to be part of the great exploration event, according to Yuan Foyu, vice president of Baidu. 

The name of Tianwen-1 was also selected from a pool of 35,912 nominations, and was announced on April 24, the fifth annual Day of Space in China.

The name comes from the long poem "Tianwen," meaning Heavenly Questions or Questions to Heaven, written by Qu Yuan (around 340-278 BC), who is often referred to as one of the greatest poets of ancient China.

In Tianwen, Qu Yuan raised a series of questions in verse involving the sky, stars, natural phenomena, myths and real world, questioning some traditional concepts and commenting on the spirit of seeking the truth.

Netizens have shown great zeal to suggest different names on social media, and a Global Times reporter found on Friday that most of the general public's suggestions were related to Chinese mythology; that is, the images of fire, as Mars, known in Chinese as huoxing, literally means the fire planet. 

Zhuque, or the Vermillion Bird, with a fire red color, one of the four Chinese holy creatures and god of the South, is seemingly leading the global vote.

Nezha, a household name of a Chinese mythological champion, whose image is a disobedient child with fire breathing powers, was also liked by many on social media.

And even Nezha's main weapon, the fenghuolun, or wind-and-fire wheels, was favored.

Zhurong, the god of fire in Chinese mythology and folk religion, as well as chitu, the red rabbit, in contrast with the name of rover of the China's lunar probe, the Yutu or the Jade rabbit, were also proposed by some users. 

The rover naming event will last until August 12, Baidu said in a press release sent to the Global Times on Friday. 

Tianwen-1 is expected to enter Mars' orbit around February of 2021, around 7 months after being launched. Later, the spacecraft will spend two to three months surveying potential landing sites in preparation for the landing in May. 

After the landing, the rover will be released to conduct scientific exploration with an expected lifespan of at least 90 Martian days, which is around three months on Earth.