It’s about time NASA’s Mars rover got a real name before it launches from Cape Canaveral this summer.
On Thursday, NASA revealed its roving robot will be called Perseverance. The name was selected through a nationwide naming contest where more than 28,000 students submitted essays with their name choices.
The winning essay was written and submitted by Alexander Mather, a 7th-grade student from Virginia, who said he wants to grow up and become an engineer at NASA.
The U.S. space agency opened up the top nine picks to an international public poll online. More than 770,000 votes were cast, according to the space agency, before Perseverance was declared the winner.
Mather said he became interested in space exploration when he attended Space Camp in Alabama in 2018.
Call me Perseverance.— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 5, 2020
I'm headed for Mars: driven to search for signs of ancient life, test new tech to help future human explorers, and collect the first rock samples for future return to Earth.
Follow me. Let's go. https://t.co/7w3rbvbyoL#Mars2020
After that trip, “Mather became a bona fide space enthusiast, checking NASA.gov daily, consuming astronaut autobiographies and even 3D-printing flyable model rockets,” NASA said in a news release. “When the call went out for students to propose a name for NASA’s new Mars rover, Mather knew he wanted to contribute.”
Prior to Thursday, the robot was known only as Mars 2020, the rover is set to follow in the wheel tracks of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover already on the red planet.
John McNamee, project manager of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission at JPL, said the name is fitting for the team that built and designed the rover.
“I saw all these dedicated men and women who for years have invested the full measure of their intellect and stamina into the most technologically advanced rover mission in history – and I saw a lot of smiling faces and high-fives," McNamee said. "Perseverance? You bet, that is a worthy name that we can be proud of as the first leg of a sample return campaign.”
United Launch Alliance will launch the rover as soon as July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The launch window opens July 17 and ends Aug. 5.
As the essay winner, Mather and his family will be invited to Cape Canaveral to watch the launch.
Mars 2020 arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 12. The rover was then moved to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility where it’s undergoing processing prior to launch.
After liftoff, the journey will take about eight months, arriving on Feb. 18, 2021.
When the rover lands on Mars, it will begin its investigation of the red planet in the Jezero Crater.
Although Mars 2020 looks very similar to Curiosity, the new rover is equipped with a whole new set of science instruments.
Mars 2020 has the ability to collect samples from the red planet and has a microphone that will capture the first sounds of Mars. NASA is planning several follow up spacecraft missions to collect and return the first samples to Earth.
The robot also has a rock-blasting laser, called SuperCam, that will identify minerals on Mars.