NASA is inviting students to name the next Mars rover. The Mars 2020 Rover is preparing to launch in July 2020, but it doesn’t have a name yet.
NASA’s Name the Rover contest asks students from kindergarten through 12th grade across the United States to send in short essays with their best name ideas.
The contest started on August 27 and runs until November 1. K-12 students in U.S. public, private and home schools can enter. The grand prize winner will name the rover and be invited to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Here’s how NASA described the rover:
The Mars 2020 rover is a 2,300-pound (1,040-kilogram) robotic scientist that will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the red planet.
Building NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover: See NASA’s next Mars rover quite literally coming together inside a clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
To enter the contest, students must submit their proposed rover name and a short essay, no more than 150 words, explaining why their proposed name should be chosen. The essays will be divided into three groups, by grade level – K-4, 5-8, and 9-12 – and judged, NASA said
… on the appropriateness, significance and originality of their proposed name, and the originality and quality of their essay, and/or finalist interview presentation.
NASA will select 52 semifinalists per group, each representing their respective state or U.S. territory. The judges will choose three finalists from each group to advance to the final round.
As part of the final selection process, the public will get to vote online on the nine finalists in January 2020. NASA plans to announce the selected name on February 18, 2020 – exactly one year before the rover will land on the surface of Mars.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said:
Our Mars 2020 rover has fully taken shape over the past several months … All that’s missing is a great name!
If you’re a U.S. resident over 18 years old, you can volunteer to help judge the thousands of contest entries that NASA expects to pour in from around the country. Here’s how.
Bottom line: A NASA contest invites U.S. students to come up with a name for the 2020 Mars Rover.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.