After months of anticipation and a naming contest that involved hundreds of thousands of voters, NASA finally chose a name for its next Mars rover: Perseverance.
The Mars 2020 mission rover is almost ready for launch, scheduled for July 2020 at the U.S. Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. All that was missing was a name, and now we have it.
Perseverance and curiosity together
NASA announced the new name today at a press conference with Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Directorate of Scientific Missions. He said that “Perseverance and curiosity together are what exploration is all about”, in a reference to the Curiosity rover, which currently explores the Martian surface.
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Who suggested the name Perseverance is Alex Mather, a 7th grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School, which is in the US state of Virginia. During the press conference, Mather read a short speech from his winning essay, saying that humanity is subject to setbacks as it ventures into space, but it will be “perseverance” that will see us through any difficulties, adding that the “the human race will always persevere into the future”.
To choose the new name, NASA launched a contest in August 2019. Participation was huge: the space agency received more than 28,000 entries and 770,000 votes from around the world, including 509,338 from the United States. In late January, NASA reduced its list to nine names: Courage, Clarity, Endurance, Perseverance, Tenacity, Vision, Ingenuity, Promise and Fortitude. Of these, Perseverance was chosen as the winner.
If everything goes according to plan, the six-wheeled, 2,314-pound (1,050 kg) rover will land in Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.
Built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Perseverance is equipped with all types of state-of-the-art gadgets, including an instrument to scan the ground below the spacecraft, the ability to collect surface samples and placing them in storage containers for later retrieval, advanced automatic navigation software, stronger wheels and maneuvering features to prevent the rover from tipping over in extreme situations.
Additionally, the space vehicle will bring an air companion – the Mars Helicopter Scout, which will provide our first aerial view of the Martian surface.
Once in the Jezero Crater, site of an ancient lake bed, Perseverance will look for signs of life that may have existed on Mars and will perform scientific examinations of the geology, atmosphere and other natural events on the Red Planet.
The next stage of Martian exploration is about to begin, and finally, we can call the space vehicle that will make all of this possible by its name. Have a good trip, Perseverance!