At an opening ceremony for the China Space Conference held in Nanjing, Jiangsu on Saturday, the national Space Day, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) officially named its first Mars rover “Zhu Rong (祝融)” – the god of fire in Chinese mythology.
Zhu Rong is revered as the earliest god of fire in Chinese traditional culture, symbolizing the use of fire to bring light and illuminate the earth. The name symbolizes the Chinese people’s hope and expectation that the rover will ignite the flame of the country’s interplanetary exploration.
Experts also noted that the name carries a special connotation in the new era. “Zhu,” meaning blessing, expresses the best wishes that mankind can explore space bravely. “Rong,” meaning integration, expresses the pattern and vision of the Chinese people to peacefully use space and promote human well-being through cooperation with other countries, while taking history, modernity and the future into consideration.
A global naming campaign for the Mars rover last July attracted considerable attention from netizens. In January this year, after reviewing, commenting and voting by the judging committee, 10 shortlisted names, including Hong Yi (弘毅), Qi Lin (麒麟), Ne Zha (哪吒), Chi Tu (赤兔), Zhu Rong (祝融), Qiu Suo (求索), Fenghuolun (风火轮), Zhui Meng (追梦), Tian Xing (天行), Xing Huo (星火), stood out from nearly 40,000 valid nominations. After 40 days of public online voting, “Zhu Rong,” “Ne Zha” and “Hong Yi” were the top three.
The name selected for the first Mars rover is related to traditional Chinese cultural elements, which is in line with the naming philosophy of other spacecraft in China, such as “Chang’e (嫦娥), Mo Zi (墨子), Wu Kong (悟空), Beidou (北斗) and so on. It embodies the scientific dreams, romance and spirit of exploration for the Chinese people.
The Mars rover is a kind of vehicle launched by human beings to travel on the surface of Mars and conduct investigations. The Zhu Rong rover is 1.85 meters high and weighs about 240 kilograms, with a designed life span of three Martian months, equivalent to about 92 earth days.
It will probe the composition of the Martian surface, the distribution of materials, the geological structure and the meteorological environment. Equipped with panoramic and multispectral camera, subsurface detection radar and magnetic field detector, the rover is capable of scientifically observing Mars in many aspects.
The rover is part of Tianwen-1 probe, China’s first interplanetary mission, which successfully launched in July 2020 and arrived in orbit around Mars in February.
The probe has acquired high-definition image data of the pre-selected landing area through multiple imaging. In the first Mars image returned by it, surface features are clearly visible, which has greatly excited many space fans. It will carry out follow-up work as scheduled, which includes the analysis of the topography and meteorological environment of the landing area, as part of the preparation for its landing on the Mars surface in mid-to-late May.
The Tianwen-1 mission is the first step for China in independent planetary exploration of the solar system, aiming to complete orbiting, landing and roving in a single mission.