Curiosity isn’t the only Martian rover making headlines this week. NASA will soon reveal the name of its next Mars rover at a special event held today at 1:30 p.m. ET.
NASA opened name submissions to K-12 students in U.S. public, private, and home schools last August before choosing nine finalists. The agency then conducted an online poll to let the public vote on their favorite name among the top finishers:
- Endurance, K-4, Oliver Jacobs of Virginia
- Tenacity, K-4, Eamon Reilly of Pennsylvania
- Promise, K-4, Amira Shanshiry of Massachusetts
- Perseverance, 5-8, Alexander Mather of Virginia
- Vision, 5-8, Hadley Green of Mississippi
- Clarity, 5-8, Nora Benitez of California
- Ingenuity, 9-12, Vaneeza Rupani of Alabama
- Fortitude, 9-12, Anthony Yoon of Oklahoma
- Courage, 9-12, Tori Gray of Louisiana
The student who submitted the winning name and essay will be in attendance at today’s event that also features:
- Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
- Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters
- Deanne Bell, founder and CEO of Future Engineers in Burbank, California
The student winner will also be invited to watch the spacecraft launch that takes the Martian rover to the surface of Mars.
The currently unnamed rover is a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms). It will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. Scheduled to launch in July or August 2020, the rover will land in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.
The next Mars rover name unveiling will happen live below at 1:30 p.m. ET today:
And the winner is… Perseverance! The name was submitted by Alex Mather of Virginia.
Up until two years ago, Mather was more interested in video games than space. That all changed in the summer of 2018 when he visited Space Camp in Alabama. From his first glimpse of a Saturn V – the rocket that launched the Apollo astronauts to the Moon half a century ago – Mather became a bona fide space enthusiast, checking NASA.gov daily, consuming astronaut autobiographies and even 3D-printing flyable model rockets. When the call went out for students to propose a name for NASA’s new Mars rover, Mather knew he wanted to contribute.
“This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again,” said Mather. “This Mars rover will help pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusal of the challenge was not an option.”
This part is awesome too:
While Mather has received NASA’s grand prize in this competition, NASA also is acknowledging the valuable contributions of the semifinalists whose entries were among the top ones considered.
“They came so far, and their expressive submissions helped make this naming contest the biggest and best in NASA history,” said Glaze, who also attended the event Thursday. “So, we decided to send them a little farther – 314 million miles farther. All 155 semifinalists’ proposed rover names and essays have been stenciled onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair and will be flown to Mars aboard the rover.”
The Martian rover already has its own Twitter account too: