NASA's next Mars rover has a new name: Perseverance.
Virginia seventh grader Alexander Mather submitted the winning entry to the agency’s "Name the Rover" essay contest, which received 28,000 entries from K-12 students from every U.S. state and territory.
"Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, in announcing the name on March 5. “Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it’s going to make amazing discoveries. It’s already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today – processing for launch. Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they’re going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance. We can’t wait to see that nameplate on Mars.”
Perseverance is the latest in a long line of Red Planet rovers to be named by school-age 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. In each case, the name was selected following a nationwide contest.
Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges – educators, professionals and space enthusiasts from around the country – helped narrow the pool of proposed rover names, then the public had five days to weigh in on their favorites of nine finalists, logging more than 770,000 votes online, with the results submitted to NASA for consideration.
Up until two years ago, Mather was more interested in video games than space. That all changed in the summer of 2018 when he visited Space Camp in Alabama. From his first glimpse of a Saturn V – the rocket that launched the Apollo astronauts to the Moon half a century ago – Mather became a bona fide space enthusiast, checking NASA.gov daily, consuming astronaut autobiographies and even 3D-printing flyable model rockets. When the call went out for students to propose a name for NASA's new Mars rover, Mather knew he wanted to contribute.
"This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again," said Mather. "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."
Along with forever being associated with the mission, Mather will also receive an invitation to travel with his family to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to witness the rover’s launch this summer.
NASA's Perseverance rover is a robotic scientist weighing just under 1,043 kilograms. Targeted to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, the rover’s astrobiology mission includes searching for signs of past microbial life. It will also characterize the planet's climate and geology, and collect samples of Martian rocks and dust for a future Mars Sample Return mission, while paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
Mars 2020 is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis program.
For more information about the mission, go to: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/. Follow the Perseverance Mars rover’s official accounts and get answers to your questions about the mission at: https://twitter.com/NASAPersevere and: https://facebook.com/NASAPersevere. For more about NASA's Moon to Mars plans, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars.