It was until now known by the generic name of Mars 2020, but this Thursday, on March 5, NASA unveiled the name chosen for the rover that it will use for the Mars 2020 mission. The new rover has been renamed as “Perseverance.”
The name was chosen after a month-long “Name the Rover” essay contest, which received 28,000 entries from K-12 students from every state and territory in the United States. Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges – educators, professionals and space enthusiasts from around the country – have contributed to narrowing the list of proposals to 155 semifinalists.
Once that group was whittled down to nine finalists in the second round, NASA then had a public vote on its favorite options. Also, the finalists discussed their ideas with a panel of experts. Eventually, NASA chose the name “Perseverance,” which was submitted by Alexander Mather, a 13-year-old student from Springfield, Virginia. The competition represented a great opportunity for young people to get involved in the NASA mission dedicated to the exploration of Mars.
Perseverance is the successor of Curiosity, which has been investigating the surface of Mars since 2012. Previous names of Mars rovers were Sojourner that landed in 1997 and explored Mars for around three months, Spirit that was active from 2004 to 2010, and Opportunity, who was active on Mars from 2004 until the middle of 2018. In all cases, the names came from a contest organized by NASA.
Along with having the honor of naming the Mars 2020 rover, Mather will also receive an invitation to travel with his family to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to witness the rover begin its journey when it launches this summer. NASA also is acknowledging the valuable contributions of the semifinalists whose entries were among the top ones considered.
“Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration,” said Zurbuchen. “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.“
The Mars 2020 rover is currently located at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and is preparing for launch this summer. For now, it continues to receive the latest fixes and repairs before it is completely ready in mid-April when all the previous tests will begin.