Unsurprisingly, NASA steered well clear of the type of smart-arse names often thrown up when the public is invited to come up with names for new equipment.
Space Connect suggested NASA couldn’t possibly go past naming their rover Rover McRoverface, but then we weren’t eligible. That’s a homage to the contest run in the UK in 2016 to come up with a name for a new ocean research vessel. Far and away most popular was Boaty McBoatface.
That wasn’t going to happen and the vessel is now named RRS Sir David Attenborough. However, a submersible on the vessel has been named Boaty McBoatface.
So, what names have US students come up with?
The shortlist is Endurance, Tenacity, Promise, Perseverance, Vision, Clarity, Ingenuity, Fortitude and Courage.
That’s certainly in keeping with the names of earlier NASA mars rovers – Curiosity, which landed in 2011 and remains operational, Opportunity (2004-2019), Spirit (2004-2010) and Sojourner (1997).
Despite Australia’s long engagement with NASA and the US space program, and longstanding alliance and involvement alongside the US in various wars, this contest was only open to US students.
More than 28,000 entries were received and they show considerable imagination, many drawing on Roman, Greek and other mythology.
Among those not chosen are F.I.D.O. (Fearless Information Data Officer), Calypso, Footprint and Asteria Morpheus.
NASA plans to announce the winning name on 18 February. The winner will get to watch the launch of the Mars 2020 mission on 17 July. It’s scheduled to land on the Red Planet in February 2021.
The one-tonne, six-wheeled Mars Rover is the most sophisticated probe ever dispatched to Mars.
It carries a range of instruments to examine the Mars surface, atmosphere and climate and to detect organic compounds and indications of past life. It even carries a small drone to scout the best travel route.
It will collect samples for collection and return to Earth in a future unmanned mission, a prerequisite for an eventual crewed mission.
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