NASA’s next rover mission to Mars should depart for the Red Planet in 2020, tasked with hunting for signs of ancient life, as well as collecting samples and returning them to Earth. But before this happens, the rover needs a name. NASA has now launched a call to the public to vote what the rover should be called out of 9 candidate names.
The 9 possible names were selected as the finalists of a student naming contest organized by NASA for school children. Here’s a list of possible names for the Mars 2020 rover, tentatively named this way to reference its launch window, and the students who proposed them:
- Endurance, K-4, Oliver Jacobs of Virgina.
- 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.
Everyone, from any country, is encouraged to pick their favorite in an online poll. The poll closes at midnight (05:00 GMT) on January 28.
All of NASA’s Mars rovers — Sojourner (1996), Spirit and Opportunity (2003), and Curiosity (2012) — were named by kids during student competitions. The Mars 2020 mission is no exception to this tradition.
Students across the US, ranging from kindergarten to high school, submitted more than 28,000 potential names for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. A panel of 4,700 volunteer judges shortlisted the proposals to 155 semifinalists, which was eventually cut down to 9 proposals. The nine student finalists are invited to discuss the names that they proposed in a panel including Lori Glaze (NASA Planetary Science Division director), Jessica Watkins (NASA astronaut), Nick Wiltsie (NASA-JPL rover driver), and Clara Ma (the winner of the 2009 competition that named the Curiosity rover; she was sixth-grade student at the time).
The Mars 2020 official name will be announced after the contest concludes in early March. The student who submitted the winning proposal will be invited to see the rover’s launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Mars 2020 will land on the Red Planet in February 2021, in Jezero Crater — the site of an ancient lake that had liquid water 3.5 billion years ago. The rover’s main mission is to collect samples, which would be returned to Earth by a subsequent mission in the future. NASA hopes to find signs of ancient life in the mineral deposits at the crater. The mission will also lay the groundwork for future manned missions to Mars by testing critical instruments that will study the Martian soil, weather, and atmosphere.
So, what’s your favorite name from the list? Share yours in the comments.