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China's 1st Mars rover will get one of these 10 names, and you can vote to select the winner

China's Tianwan-1 Mars rover is pictured at the "Mars yard," a simulated Red Planet testing ground at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, China.
China's Tianwan-1 Mars rover is pictured at the "Mars yard," a simulated Red Planet testing ground at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, China. (Image credit: CCTV)

China is holding a 40-day public vote to help select the name for its Mars rover which is currently closing in on the Red Planet.

The public can now vote for their favorites from a shortlist of 10 names for the Tianwen-1 mission rover.

The 10 names — Hongyi, Qilin, Nezha, Chitu, Zhurong, Qiusuo, Fenghuolun, Zhuimeng, Tianxing and Xinghuo — are taken from ideas including Chinese mythological figures, Confucian concepts and legendary animals.

Related: China's Tianwen-1 Mars mission in photos 

Notably Hongyi, from the Confucian Analects, can be translated to "persistence" or perseverance, giving a similar meaning to the NASA Perseverance rover also heading for Mars. Others meanings include: 

  • Zhurong: a god of fire
  • Qilin: a Chinese unicorn
  • Chitu: red rabbit
  • Qiusuo: to explore, referencing an ancient poem
  • Zhuimeng: to pursue a dream
  • Nezha: a mythological hero
  • Fenghuolun: Nezha's weapons
  • Tianxing: referring to the motion of celestial bodies
  • Xinghuo: spark

The Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center belonging to the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced the shortlist on Jan. 18 after soliciting suggestions after the mission launched in July last year.

China's Tianwen-1 mission includes both an orbiter and a rover, and the spacecraft are due to enter orbit around Mars on Feb. 10

The rover will not attempt its landing until around May. The orbiter will image the landing site and determine the conditions on the ground in preparation for the landing.

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China's Tianwen-1 Mars probe is seen by a tiny camera ejected from the spacecraft in a photo captured 15 million miles from Earth. (Image credit: CNSA)

If it lands successfully the roughly 530-lb. (240 kilograms) solar-powered rover will investigate the surface soil characteristics and potential water-ice distribution with its Subsurface Exploration Radar instrument. The rover also carries panoramic and multispectral cameras and instruments to analyze the composition of rocks.

The Tianwen-1 mission and the chance to name the rover have generated a fair amount of attention. 

"More than 1.4 million entries have been received from 38 countries and regions since we initiated the naming campaign in July 2020. Over 200,000 of them are eligible. The netizens' active participation shows their great care for the Mars mission," Yuan Foyu, director of the naming campaign for China's first Mars rover, told CCTV.

The vote is being hosted by Chinese internet giant Baidu with a deadline of Feb. 28. Judges will then deliberate and announce a final name sometime before the landing.

Tianwen-1 is China's first independent interplanetary mission and it also draws its name from history, with "Tianwen" meaning "Heavenly Questions" or "Questions to Heaven," being taken from a poem written by Qu Yuan (around 340-278 BCE).

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Andrew Jones covers China's space industry for SpaceNews. He is based in Helsinki, Finland.

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