Finalists selected for naming NASA’s next Mars rover

This illustration depicts NASA’s next Mars rover, which launches in July 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After conducting a nationwide contest where kindergarten through 12th grade students across the United States submitted essays to “Name the Rover,” NASA has selected nine candidate names as finalists to come up with a fitting name for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover.

The nine candidate names were selected from more than 28,000 essays submitted since the contest began on Aug. 28 last year.

The winning name for NASA’s 2020 rover — and the student behind it — will be announced in early March.

A diverse panel of nearly 4,700 judge volunteers – composed of educators, professionals and space enthusiasts from all around the country –  narrowed the pool down to 155 deserving semifinalists from every state and territory in the country.

“Thousands of students have shared their ideas for a name that will do our rover and the team proud,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington. “Thousands more volunteered time to be part of the judging process. Now it is the public’s opportunity to become involved and express their excitement for their favorites of the final nine.”

In a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers observed the first driving test for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on Dec. 17, 2019. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Here are the nine finalist names for the Mars 2020 rover, along with the student names who submitted the essay, grade level, and state:

  • 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 public previously had a chance to give input about the names, but the voting has now closed.

We each have our own favorite. What’s your favorite Mars 2020 rover name?

The final selected will be made by a team comprised of Glaze, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA-JPL rover driver Nick Wiltsie and Clara Ma, who earned the honor of naming the Mars Curiosity rover as a sixth-grade student back in 2009.

The grand prize winner will also receive an invitation to see the spacecraft launch this July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Mars 2020 rover is offloaded from a C-17 aircraft at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 12, 2020. Credit: NASA/Cory Huston

The mission is drawing near as the Mars 2020 rover recently arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center – the agency’s Florida launch base for final processing ahead of blastoff – after departing the only home she has ever known and where she was lovingly created by engineers working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Scheduled to launch this summer, the Mars 2020 mission will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize Mars’ climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

The car-sized rover is targeted for liftoff on July 17 aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It is scheduled to touch down in an area of Mars known as Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will store rock and soil samples in sealed tubes on the planet’s surface for future missions to retrieve, as seen in this illustration. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The one-ton rover is nearly a carbon copy of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory rover that is still operating on Mars – but with a completely new suite of science instruments and cameras as well as the first helicopter set to take flight on the planet.

Meanwhile, Curiosity continues to explore the Red Planet at Mount Sharp since the dramatic touchdown in 2012.

ESA also plans to launch its ExoMars 2020 rover this summer.

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