NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has a rendezvous with the Red Planet this summer. But before it sets off on its mission to explore Mars’ terrain and search for signs of habitability, it needs a name to match its daring personality and shiny new robotic body.
And that name has finally been announced: as NASA deems it the Perseverance rover.
The name Perseverance has been months in the making. NASA announced a contest last year for students to pick the name for its latest robotic adventurer, and students from kindergarten to grade 12 were encouraged to submit their suggestions.
NASA announced the name via a press conference Thursday, and via a new Twitter account.
The space agency received thousands of submissions. In January this year, NASA narrowed it down to nine finalists.
The list of names, along with the names of the young students who suggested them, were as follows:
- Endurance, Oliver Jacobs of Virginia
- Tenacity, Eamon Reilly of Pennsylvania
- Promise, Amira Shanshiry of Massachusetts
- Perseverance, Alexander Mather of Virginia (winner!)
- Vision, Hadley Green of Mississippi
- Clarity, Nora Benitez of California
- Ingenuity, Vaneeza Rupani of Alabama
- Fortitude, Anthony Yoon of Oklahoma
- Courage, Tori Gray of Louisiana
Once they had whittled down the choices, NASA invited members of the public to vote for their favorite name, one that would befit a car-sized, Martian robot.
After the public voting process wrapped up, the student finalists presented their suggested names and the reasoning behind it in front of a panel, which included NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA-JPL rover driver Nick Wiltsie, and Clara Ma, who named the Mars rover Curiosity as a sixth-grade student back in 2009.
This process of naming the latest robot to venture to Mars is a NASA tradition, and serves as a way to involve the public in their latest scientific ventures.
"Curiosity, Insight, Spirit, Opportunity — if you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans," Alexander Mather, a 7th grader and winner of the contest and coiner of the name Perseverance, said at Thursday's event.
"But if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we miss the most important thing, perseverance. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere," he said.
And so we will.
Roll on, Perseverance
Perseverance rover will join Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars back in August, 2012, and is still roaming the Red Planet to this day.
NASA previously sent two other rovers to Mars, Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on the Red Planet in January, 2004. Spirit ended its mission in 2010 — way past its planned 90-day expedition on the planet — while Opportunity tragically lost contact with Earth in 2018 after a massive dust storm swept over Mars.
Perseverance, the Mars 2020 rover, is set to launch in July, 2020. It will look for signs of habitability on the Martian surface and past microbial life, collecting samples of rocks and soil and setting them aside for a future mission to return them back to Earth.
The mission will also test out conditions for possible human exploration of Mars by trialing a method of producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, characterizing environmental conditions such as water and dust on Mars, and looking for resources.
Perseverance rover is set to spend at least one Martian year on the planet — the equivalent of 687 days on Earth.