A new generation of U.S. rovers that will travel to Mars next year is still waiting for its official name. As is customary by NASA, its naming rights are in the hands of a group of children. Students in the U.S. K12 basic education stage (equivalent to domestic kindergarten to high school) can submit a name and a short text of no more than 150 words to explain the reason for the naming, according to the website of the Naming Mars Rover Competition.
The ultimate winner of the naming rights will receive a prize: the family will be invited to the launch ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in June 2020.
As of January 14, 155 names had been shortlisted from 28,000 nominations for the semi-finals. The 4,700 volunteer judges from the education, science and technology and space enthusiasts’ circles then took into account the results of the popular vote and selected nine finalists to be decided by experts. The final name will be born in March.
The experts include Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary science, astronaut Jessica Watkins, Mars rover operator Nick Wiltsie and Chinese girl Clara Ma.
In 2009, 12-year-old Ma Tianqi named Curiosity.
Ten years ago, 12-year-old Ma Tianqi beat 9,200 competing schemes in a similar race to name curiosity for NASA’s Mars rover, launched in 2011. “Curiosity is the flame that lasts in everyone’s heart,” she wrote at the time. It drives me to get up every day, not knowing what kind of surprise life will throw at me today. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, it is difficult for us to grow into who we are today. When I was young, I wondered why the day was blue. Why do the stars blink? Why am I? I’m still curious. “
Curiosity has been on the Red Planet for more than seven years and is NASA’s only mars rover still in operation. The earlier launch of the twin rovers Courage and Opportunity, also named by students, has been lost.
The 2020 Mars launch window will open on July 17, and the Mars 2020 rover is scheduled for Launch in July or August. If all goes well, it will land at the Jezero Crater crater in the northern hemisphere of Mars on February 18, 2021, 45 kilometers wide and 500 meters deep. Scientists believe that billions of years ago the region may have been a river delta, livable.
NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover
Over the past period, Mars rovers have found water ice and organic matter beneath the surface of Mars, but have never found a real hammer for Martian life. The main mission of the Mars 2020 rover is to continue searching for signs of life on Mars, taking samples for future return to Earth for analysis by scientists. It will also map the climate and address characteristics of Mars, paving the way for future human landings on Mars.
Glazer believes that as a means of motivating young people to devote themselves to science and engineering research, the naming contest is “cool” and can give the Mars rover a different temperament.
Of the 155 semi-finalists on display on the official website, many are tied to the 2020 Mars rover’s core mission: to find signs of life and pave the way for human landings. For example, in the 4th and below groups, “humannature”, “decoder”, “believer”, 5th to 8th grade groups appeared “optimistic”, “footprint”, 9th to 12th grade groups appeared “may”, “catalyst” and “seeker” and so on.