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China shortlists eight unusual names for its Mars spacecraft

China has planned to launch its first ever spacecraft to Mars by 2020 and while the overall mission is progressing at a rapid pace, the one thing that the country hasn’t been able to decide is the name of the spacecraft.

The country has made some progress in this direction though and shortlisted eight names for its much awaited Mars spacecraft. According to a moon probe and space program center under the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, the final decision about the name of the spacecraft will be taken around April 24 – Space Day.

The eight names, which were selected via a jury review and online polls from over 14,500 choices submitted by people worldwide, are as follows: “Fenghuang” (phoenix), “Tianwen” (questions for heaven), “Huoxing” (Mars), “Tenglong” (soaring dragon), “Qilin” (Kylin), “Zhuque” (rose finch), “Zhuimeng” (chasing dreams) and “Fengxiang” (flying phoenix).

China’s first Mars spacecraft will orbit, land on and explore the Red Planet. Earlier this month, China’s space agency held a press conference wherein Wu Yanhua, deputy chief of the National Space Administration, said Beijing aims to launch its first Mars probe around 2020 to carry out orbiting and roving exploration, followed by a second mission that would include collection of surface samples from the red planet.

While Mars is definitely a priority for China, Yanhua also revealed that they are studying the possibility of sending a man to the moon, but focusing on robotic lunar missions for now, including making the first soft landing on the far side of the moon around 2018.