‘Perseverance’ will land on Mars’ Jerezo crater a little after 3.40 pm EST on February 18, 2021
United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has named its next Mars rover ‘Perseverence’. The name was chosen after a traditional nationwide ‘Name The Rover’ essay contest held by the space agency — which began on August 28, 2019 — to pick a winner.
The winning entry was announced by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, according to a press release on March 5, 2020.
All of NASA’s previous Mars rovers — including the Sojourner (1997), Spirit and Opportunity (2004) and Curiosity (exploring Mars since 2012) — were named in this way.
Seventh-grade student Alexander Mather emerged the winner this time and beat out 28,000 others from across the US.
NASA selected 155 semi-finalists from the entries, which were further whittled down to just nine finalists.
The people were then asked to vote for the finalists online, with the results submitted for NASA’s consideration. Nearly 770,000 votes were registered, according to the press release.
The nine finalists spoke to a panel of experts as well.
“They came so far and their expressive submissions helped make this naming contest the biggest and best in NASA history,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, who was a part of the panel.
Mather was more interested in video games until he visited NASA’s Space Camp in Alabama.
It was this visit that made him a dedicated space enthusiast: He began reading astronaut autobiographies and 3-D printing flyable model rockets, according to the press release.
“This Mars rover will help pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusal of the challenge was not an option,” said Mather.
The entries of the 155 semi-finalists would not, however, be in vain, said Glaze.
NASA decided to stencil all the essays and names on a silicon chip with lines of text “smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair,” according to her.
The silicon chip will be carried on board the Mars rover.
The Perseverance rover weighs less than 2,300 pounds and is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
The rover’s mission will be to search for signs of past microbial life. It will also collect samples of Martian rocks and dust, according to the release.
The rover will also be tasked with studying the red planet’s geology and climate.
Perseverance — currently undergoing final assembly and checkout at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida — will land on Mars’ Jerezo crater a little after 3.40 pm EST on February 18, 2021.
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