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NBA Player Yao Ming Appointed as Chinese Ambassador to Mars

Oct 11, 2016 08:39 AM EDT
2016 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony
Former NBA star Yao Ming was appointed as a Chinese Ambassador to Mars.
(Photo : Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

An NBA player is in for a literal "space jam." After its revelation of the ambition to become the next space giant, China announced the appointment of former NBA player Yao Ming as the Chinese Ambassador to Mars.

In the last few years, China has exhibited its expertise in the space industry. The country successfully launched its second module Tiangong-2 in space, a vital part of China's space station that could be the lone space lab by 2024 when the International Space Station (ISS) retires.

Yao Ming, the former basketball player is the first to be appointed as an ambassador to a planet other than the Earth. This pronouncement came as a surprise to many since the popular athlete has no background in space science aside from playing for Houston Rockets whose name depicts a spacecraft.  China plans to land on Mars by 2020, two years behind SpaceX unmanned mission to the red planet in 2018.

In line with the country's mission, Yao Ming was appointed. Whether the move was just a publicity stint or not, it sure did its job diverting Mars mission enthusiasm to China's 2020 probe.

Reports say that unlike Leonardo DiCaprio, who publicly expressed his intent to go to Mars, Ming will have to stay on Earth and perform his duties from here. His major responsibility is to promote China's Mars mission 2020 in various conventions and gatherings here on Earth.

Ming will also help gather support for China's attempt to send another Martian rover to join NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover, according to RT. Aside from Ming, China had recruited other ambassadors for its space projects including Liu Cixin, coach to the country's Olympic Volleyball team and popular boyband TFBOYS were also recruited.

But despite China's assertive efforts to make its mission to Mars popular to the public, the nation had not expressed yet its intent to send humans to Mars, instead, the focus is on building a lunar habitation system on the moon. The European Space Agency (ESA) is also conducting its own Lunar Mission.

In 2020, China plans to send a 200-kilogram rover to the red planet to observe the composition of Martian regolith and the atmosphere on the planet.


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