NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is soon going to be given a permanent name as 155 students across the United States were selected as semifinalists in the essay contest dubbed ‘Name the Rover.’
Only one contestant will be chosen to win the big prize, which consists of naming the probe and getting an invitation to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station based in Florida.
The unnamed probe is a robotic spacecraft that weighs over 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms). It will be programmed to search for signatures of past and present microbial life on Mars, estimate the planet’s climate and geology, as well as gather samples for when it returns to Earth and make way for human exploration of the dry planet.
“This rover is the first leg of a round-trip mission to Mars that will advance understanding in key science fields like astrobiology,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “This contest is a cool way to engage the next generation and encourage careers in all STEM fields. The chosen name will help define this rover’s unique personality among our fleet of Martian spacecraft.”
Naming the Rover is Not a Simple Task
With over 28,000 essay submissions acquired from K-12 students, the space agency hired volunteer contest judges from every U.S. state and district. Almost 4,700 eligible judge volunteers were chosen from a variate group of educators, professionals, and space enthusiasts and were crucial in choosing the semifinalists.
The next stage of judging will eliminate the competition to nine finalists, and the public will also have the chance to vote for their preferred name online in late January. The outcome of the pool will be a part of selecting the final naming pick.
All the nine finalists will discuss with a board of specialists, including Lori Glaze, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA JPL rover conductor Nick Wiltsie and Clara Ma, who suggested the name for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity back in 2009 as a sixth-grade student. The big prize will be announced in March of this year.