Future Martians will help name NASA's next Mars rover

Naming competition open to kindergartners through 12th graders

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

In this image, taken on June 13, 2019, engineers at JPL install the starboard legs and wheels — otherwise known as the mobility suspension — on the Mars 2020 rover. (Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

It's only fitting that the first generation to land on Mars will name NASA's next Mars robot that will help lay the path for human arrival  in the next 20 years.

NASA's next Mars rover is set to launch next year from Cape Canaveral, hence why it has only been known as Mars 2020 up until this point. However, it's time the robot on wheels gets a more inspirational name.

On Tuesday, NASA's Associate Administrator of Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said the U.S. space agency is partnering with Battelle Education and Future Engineers to encourage U.S. school student's from kindergarten to 12th grade to submit names for the robot. Students can start sending in name ideas this fall.

NASA will release more information about the rules and how students can participate when the contest opens in the fall, according to a NASA spokesman.

Judges are also needed to grade the entries. Interested judges can apply on Future Engineer's website.

It's also not too late to send your name to Mars along with the mission.

NASA sent out an open invitation for the public to send their names to the red planet with the yet to be named rover Mars 2020. Click here to add your name by Sept. 30 and receive a boarding pass to Mars with your name on it.

The rover is currently being assembled and tested at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Most recently, the rover's wheels and suspension were mated to the robot's frame and the robot's "head" or mast was raised.

"Now that's a Mars rover," Mars 2020 Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations Manager David Gruel said. "With the suspension on, not only does it look like a rover, but we have almost all our big-ticket items for integration in our rearview mirror -- if our rover had one."

Mars 2020, equipped with a suite of science instruments, will be searching for signs of life on Mars in the Jezero Crater.

United Launch Alliance will launch the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July 2020. The rover will land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.

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