Beijing: China has released a short list of eight names for its ambitious Mars mission, scheduled to launch by 2020, to join the elite club of countries, including India, who have successfully reached the orbit of the Red Planet. Out of the eight names, one will be selected in April.
China’s first attempt to reach Mars was unsuccessful when its spacecraft Yinghuo-1 failed in 2011 alongside the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission with which it was launched. If successful, China will become only the second Asian country, after India, to have successfully reached the orbit of the Red Planet.
Earlier in 1998, a Japanese mission to Mars had ran out of fuel and was lost.
The eight names – ‘Fenghuang’ (phoenix), ‘Tianwen’ (questions for heaven), ‘Huoxing’ (Mars), ‘Tenglong’ (soaring dragon), ‘Qilin’ (Kylin), ‘Zhuque’ (rose finch), ‘Zhuimeng’ (chasing dreams) and ‘Fengxiang’ (flying phoenix), were the top names chosen from over 14,500 choices submitted through more than 35,900 proposals entered by people worldwide.
China plans to launch its first Mars spacecraft by 2020, which will orbit, land and explore the Red Planet. Proposals were accepted from August last year. The eight names were selected via a jury review and online polls, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The final choice will be announced around Space Day, April 24, according to a moon probe and space program centre under the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, which solicited the proposals.
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan, is orbiting Mars since September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Russia, the US, and EU have also launched successful MARS mission in the past.