China has announced the name of its first Mars rover as Zhurong, which in Chinese tradition means the mythical god of fire and war. The solar-powered rover is aboard the Tianwen-1 probe that was launched in July 2020 and reached the red planet’s orbit on February 24. It is likely to make a landing attempt in May. According to Chinese legend, Zhurong had the face of a man, the body of a beast, and rode on two dragons. His name was once used as the title for the minister of defense. The rover’s name is in accordance with the Chinese name for Mars — “Huo Xing,” or fire star, according to the China National Space Administration, which conducted an online survey to select the name. Zhurong was chosen over Hongyi, the name favoured by many space scientists in China and which means “to have an open mind”.
The Tianwen-1 mission is part of China’s ambitious space plans that include landing a human on the moon. After landing on the Martian surface, the probe will be looking for evidence of life such as water, ice and studying the climate and surface with its panoramic and multispectral cameras. If successful, China would become the third country after the former Soviet Union and the US to land a robot on Mars. In 2019, it landed a probe on the little-explored far side of the moon.According to the South China Morning Post, Zhurong once fought war with Gong Gong, the lord of water, and won it. But the battle destabilized the universe and mankind went into complete darkness because of the ensuing chaos and natural disasters. The Chinese space administration has said that Zhurong symbolises “the use of fire to illuminate the earth and bring light”.
China is trying to catch up to the American space exploration, which has landed several rovers on Mars, including NASA's recent Perseverance mission. The Perseverance is equipped with a drone that made a historic test flight on the Martian surface recently.