In order to promote China's first mission to Mars in 2020, the country has chosen retired basketball star Yao Ming and 10 other celebrities as "Ambassadors to Mars", reported South China Morning Post on Monday (Oct 10).
Yao, 36, played for the basketball team Houston Rockets in the National Basketball Association. He will join other ambassadors Lang Ping, the coach of the women's Olympic gold-medal-winning volleyball team; composer and conductor Tan Dun, guzheng player Yuan Sha, award-winning science-fiction writer Liu Cixin, members of the Chinese teenage boy band TFBOYS, and opera singers Warren Mok, Dai Yuqiang and Wei Song, Xinhua reported on Monday.
It marks the first time China has chosen to have ambassadors for its space programme. The decision comes after the country announced in August that it planned to send a spacecraft to Mars in the summer of 2020, South China Morning Post reported.
As ambassadors, the 11 will promote the Mars mission, encourage interest in science and technology among Chinese youth and also promote China's international image, according to South China Morning Post.
The 2020 mission will be launched on a Long March-5 carrier rocket from the Wenchang space launch centre in southern China's Hainan province, Xinhua reported.