NASA to reveal name of 2020 Mars rover following nationwide student contest

LaserLens/iStock(WASHINGTON) — NASA will reveal the name of the 2020 Mars rover Thursday afternoon, ending their seven-month-long “Name the Rover” essay contest.

More than 20,000 students took part in the contest nationwide.

The students who entered, from kindergarten up to grade 12, came up with suitable names for the rover and were required to submit a short essay explaining why they chose the name.

The contest started in August 2019 when the space agency wanted to challenge young students to learn about a real NASA mission, apply critical thinking skills and form questions about a place they’ve never heard of.

With the help of 4,700 volunteer judges — who narrowed the 28,000 entries down to 155 semi-finalists and then nine finalists — the shortlisted names are: Endurance, Tenacity, Promise, Perseverance, Vision, Clarity, Ingenuity, Fortitude and Courage.

Internationally, more than 770,000 participants submitted votes in a public poll, where they voted for their favorite names, according to NASA.

After polls closed, the nine student finalists were interviewed by a panel including astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA rover driver Nick Wiltsie and Clara Ma — who named the Mars rover Curiosity in 2009 as a sixth grader.

NASA will invite the winning student to see the spacecraft launch in July or August from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida — the rover which currently weighs more than 2300 pounds is set to land on Feb. 2021 where it will be roaming the red planet for at least one Mars year which equivalents to 687 Earth days.

The winner will also have their essay featured on the NASA Mars website.

The mission to launch this rover is set at a time where Earth and Mars are in good orbit positions relative to one another — which means that it takes less power to travel and land on Mars during that time.

The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration program, which has been a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet.

This mission is taking a step forward by studying Mars’ habitability, seeking signs of past microbial life and collecting core samples of rock and soils and storing them.

NASA officially ended the mission for its previous rover Opportunity last month, after it spent 15 years roaming Mars.

Opportunity went silent on June 10 after a massive dust storm covered the planet, according to NASA.

The rover was then declared dead after scientists sent out more than 800 commands asking the rover to respond and had not heard back.

The Mars 2020 rover is set to be launched in the summer of 2020.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.