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Mars 2020 rover is officially named ‘Perseverance’

Meet Perseverance. The new name has been assigned to NASA's Mars 2020 rover.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Meet Perseverance. The new name has been assigned to NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, launching this July and landing on the red planet in February 2021.

The winning name was entered during a nationwide contest by Alexander Mather, a middle school student in Virginia. And he will be invited to watch the spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this summer.

Students across the US, ranging from kindergarten to high school, submitted more than 28,000 potential names for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. A panel of 4,700 volunteer judges whittled that list down to 155 semifinalists. Then, people from around the world shared their opinions on nine finalists, registering more than 770,000 votes in a public poll.

Here are the runner-ups:

  • Endurance, (Kindergarten to 4th grade, by Oliver Jacobs of Virginia)
  • Tenacity, (Kindergarten to 4th grade, by Eamon Reilly of Pennsylvania)
  • Promise, (Kindergarten to 4th grade, by Amira Shanshiry of Massachusetts)
  • Vision, (5th to 8th grade, by Hadley Green of Mississippi)
  • Clarity, (5th to 8th grade, by Nora Benitez of California)
  • Ingenuity, (9th to 12th grade, by Vaneeza Rupani of Alabama)
  • Fortitude, (9th to 12th grade, by Anthony Yoon of Oklahoma)
  • Courage, (9th to 12th grade, by Tori Gray of Louisiana)

Each contestant presented their name to a panel that included Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division Lori Glaze; NASA rover driver Nick Wiltsie; NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins; and Clara Ma, who named the Curiosity rover when she was a sixth-grade student in 2009.

The submissions were judged based on the appropriateness and significance of the name, its originality, the quality and originality of the essay, presentation and interview, as well as bonus points for high public poll votes. When coming up with name ideas, students were advised to “keep it G-rated” and not use the names of current, past or proposed space missions, brands or people (at least those who are currently living).

You can see the other 155 semifinalists that didn’t make the cut on their website. 

The rover will join a growing family of NASA missions currently operating on and around Mars, including the Curiosity rover, the InSight stationary lander and the Mars orbiters.

When the rover lands on the Red Planet in February 2021, it will touch down in Jezero Crater, the site of a lake that existed 3.5 billion years ago. The next generation rover will build on the goals of previous robotic explorers by collecting the first samples of Mars, which would be returned to Earth at a later date.

The 2020 rover’s work will begin in areas of Jezero Crater, where it will search for signs of ancient life, including mineral deposits and perhaps even microscopic fossils. If 2020 samples these sites, the intriguing soil will be stored in metal tubes, and the data it collects may be able to help scientists know if they’ve found a biosignature on Mars.

But the new rover will also be on a mission to lay the groundwork for future human exploration by testing out instruments that will use ground-penetrating radar for the first time, study weather science and convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.

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