Published: March 6, 2020 1:08:26 pm
NASA’s Mars rover for the 2020 mission finally has an official name: Perseverance. Alexander Mather, a seventh-standard student, submitted the winning entry to NASA’s “Name the Rover” essay contest. A total of 28,000 entries were received from students across the United States as part of the contest.
“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,” said Mather.
“Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration. Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it’s going to make amazing discoveries. Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they’re going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance. We can’t wait to see that nameplate on Mars,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, said as he announced the name.
NASA’s last rover sent to Mars was Curiosity, back in 2012. Other Mars rovers have also been named by school children, which includes Sojourner in 1997 and Spirit and Opportunity rovers (landed in 2004).
There were nearly 4,700 volunteer judges as part of the naming contest, who helped bring the pool down to 155 semifinalists. One there were nine finalists, NASA had the public vote in on their favourite name. According to the agency, more than 770,000 votes were polled online.
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The nine finalists also talked with a panel of experts, including Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division; NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins; rover driver Nick Wiltsie at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California; and Clara Ma, who, as a sixth grade student in 2009, named Curiosity.
As a winner, Mather will also be invited to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to witness the launch of the rover in summer.
Further as a reward for all the semifinalists, their 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, announced NASA.
NASA Perseverance rover: Key facts
The rover has is a robotic scientist and weighs just under 1,043 kilograms. The Perseverance rover will be managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL) and will hunt for signs of past microbial life on Mars.
Perseverance will also characterise the planet’s climate and geology, and collect samples of Martian rocks and dust. NASA has plans for a future mission which could bring these samples back to Earth.
The rover is currently is undergoing final assembly and checkout at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rover is targeted to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater a little February 18, 2021.
The Mars 2020 is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the planet. NASA plans to put the next man and first woman on the moon by 2024 and wants a sustained human presence on the Moon by 2028 with its Artemis program.
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