China names Mars rover for traditional fire god

<p>BEIJING &mdash; China’s first Mars rover will be named Zhurong after a traditional fire god, the government announced Saturday.</p>
<p>The rover is aboard the Tianwen-1 probe that arrived in Mars orbit on Feb. 24 and is due to land in May to look for evidence of life. </p>
<p>It is part of Chinese space plans that include launching a crewed orbital station and landing a human on the moon. China in 2019 became the first country to land a space probe on the little-explored far side of the moon and in December returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.</p>
<p>The rover’s title fits with the Chinese name for Mars — “Huo Xing,” or fire star, the China National Space Administration said.</p>
<p>The name “signifies igniting the flame of China’s planetary exploration,” a deputy CNSA administrator, Wu Yanhua, was cited by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying.</p>
<p>The top candidate for the landing site is Utopia Planitia, a rock-strewn plain where the U.S. lander Viking 2 touched down in 1976.</p>
<p>CNSA says Tianwen-1’s goals including analyzing and mapping the Martian surface and geology, looking for water ice and studying the climate and surface environment.</p>
<p>China would become the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to put a robot rover on Mars.</p>