Before the European Space Agency (ESA) can send its rover to Mars in 2020, it’s going to need a name. The agency has launched a competition to crowdsource ideas for the vehicle, and judging by how these competitions work in Europe, the ESA might be giving the world yet another Boaty McBoatface.
The nameless rover is part of the ExoMars mission to investigate the red planet’s conditions to sustain life. The rover — call it a hunch, but let’s say Rovey McRoverface — will be the first of its kind to drill into Mars to collect samples for its automated laboratory, using solar panels to generate electrical power. On Friday, British astronaut Tim Peake announced the competition at the Farnborough International Airshow, opening the fate of the groundbreaking rover’s title to the general public.
According to contest rules, every entrant only gets one submission and must include a short explanation for their choice. Submitted names can be a single word, a short combination of words, or an acronym. The vehicle can’t be named after a past mission, nor can it be named after a person still living. However, it can be named after a person who died before October 10, 1993.
Whereas Boaty McBoatface was a product of the British people’s efforts, this competition is open to all residents of ESA member states and associate member states. This includes the European countries Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK, and one non-European country: Canada.
The search for Rovey McRoverface’s real name will remain open until October 10, 2018. Once the competition is closed, a panel of experts will read each submission and select the winner, who will not only see their namesake land on Mars in March 2021 but will be awarded a tour of the Airbus factory where the rover was built.
“Now is your chance to be a part of the mission by choosing the name,” reads the introduction before entering the competition. The innovation onboard the ExoMars Rover solidifies its place in space history, giving the public a rare opportunity to take part in that legacy.