A little over a year from now, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will launch for Cape Canaveral and begin its journey to the Red Planet. When it arrives, in February 2021, it will begin exploring the Jezero Crater to learn more about Mars’ past and search for evidence of past and present life. But before that happens, this robotic explorer still needs a proper name.
Like its predecessors, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity, the Mars 2020 rover will get its official name with the help of a nationwide contest. Towards this end, NASA recently announced that it has partnered with two organizations to give K-12 students all across the US a chance to name the rover that will continue in the search for life and pave the way for humans to begin exploring Mars.
The partnered organizations include Battelle Education, a global applied science and technology development nonprofit based in Columbus, Ohio; and Future Engineers, an online innovation and incentive-challenge host based in Burbank, California. In keeping with NASA’s efforts to engage the public in its missions to the Moon and Mars, they will be helping to launch the Mars 2020 “Name the Rover” contest this Fall.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, Curiosity, this 1,000 kg (2,300 lbs) robotic laboratory will use an advanced suite of instruments to search for signs of past microbial life and characterize the planet’s climate and geology. The mission will also include a sample caching instrument designed to help the rover collect samples of Martian soil for an eventual return mission to Earth.
As George Tahu, the Mars 2020 program executive in NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said in a recent NASA press release:
“We’re very excited about this exceptional partnership. Contests like this present excellent opportunities to invite young students and educators to be a part of this journey to understand the possibilities for life beyond Earth and to advance new capabilities in exploration technology.”
As with previous naming competitions, NASA’s “Name the Rover” competition is focused on K-12 entries in order to engage U.S. students in the process that makes space exploration possible. The contest also aims to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and inspire the next generation of students to pursue careers in these fields.
Battelle will be assisting by offering students the ability to connect with the Mars 2020 mission through its portfolio of STEM networks, as well as by assisting with the recruitment of judges, students and curating resources for teachers. Future Engineering will be assisting the contest by hosted it on its web platform, which will serve as the online portal for entry submission and judging.
Speaking of which, NASA is looking for volunteers to help judge the contest since thousands of submissions are expected to come pouring in once the competition begins. The application to become a contest judge can be found on the Future Engineering website, and those US citizens that are interested are advised that the process will only take about five hours.
So if you’re a K-12 student living in the US, or a US citizen, don’t hesitate to get involved. The name you suggest (or help select) could be the one that goes to Mars next year!
Further Reading: NASA