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NASA Mars rover named Perseverance following US-wide schools contest

Max Blenkin

NASA has chosen the name Perseverance for the next Mars rover after a US-wide contest in which 28,000 school students submitted essays promoting their chosen name.

NASA Mars rover named Perseverance following US-wide schools contest
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The honour went to Virginia seventh grader Alexander Mather, whose entry, NASA said, captured the spirit of exploration.

Of course NASA was never going to choose a smartarse name such as Rover McRoverface, as suggested by Space Connect in 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.

The name for the Mars rover was announced by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the school in Virginia attended by Alexander Mather.

"Alex's entry captured the spirit of exploration. Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges and it's going to make amazing discoveries,” he said.

“It's already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today — processing for launch.”

Perseverance is the latest in a line of Mars rovers to be named by American school children, from Sojourner in 1997 to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on Mars in 2004, to Curiosity, which has been exploring Mars since 2012.

Each name was selected in a nationwide contest.

Many of the 28,000 entries showed considerable imagination, drawing on Roman, Greek and other mythology.

Among those not chosen were F.I.D.O. (Fearless Information Data Officer), Calypso, Footprint and Asteria Morpheus.

Perseverance was ultimately chosen from a shortlist of nine names – Endurance, Tenacity, Promise, Perseverance, Vision, Clarity, Ingenuity, Fortitude and Courage.

Mather is a space enthusiast and a graduate of space camp in 2018.

"This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the moon and will soon do it again," he said.

"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."

As a prize, he will travel to Cape Canaveral to witness the launch this northern summer.

Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover ever dispatched to the Red Planet, with a mission to survey climate and geology and search for signs of past microbial life.

It will collect dust and rock samples for a future Mars Sample Return mission to Earth.

Perseverance is now undergoing final assembly and checkout at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It's planned to land at Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021.

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