The Mars 2020 rover is one step closer to having an actual name.
After receiving more than 28,000 submissions for its “Name the Rover” essay contest, NASA has narrowed down the pool to 155 semifinalists.
K-12 students from across the country offered up suggestions like FIDO (Fearless Information Data Officer), DIANA (Deep Insight on Adaptation to Natural Assets), and GRIT (Geologic Retrieval Investigation and Testing).
But they can’t all be winners.
(And trust me, they’re not.)
A panel of nearly 4,700 volunteers—educators, professionals, space enthusiasts—helped select 52 semifinalists from each grade-level group (K-4, 5-8, 9-12) to represent their respective state or territory. (My math isn’t great, but one state/territory appears to be missing from the 9-12 batch.)
Three finalists from each lot advance to the next round, which involves an interview with NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, JPL rover driver Nick Wiltsie, and Clara Ma—former sixth-grade student who named the Curiosity rover.
Later this month, the public can vote online for their favorite of the nine titles.
Just like on RuPaul’s Drag Race, NASA will consult results of the poll, but the final decision is the space agency’s to make.
One grand prize winner will be announced in early March, and will be invited to the spacecraft’s July launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The robotic scientist, weighing in at more than 2,300 pounds, will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the Martian climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
“This rover is the first leg of a round-trip mission to Mars that will advance understanding in key science fields like astrobiology,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said in a statement.
“This contest is a cool way to engage the next generation and encourage careers in all STEM fields,” she continued. “The chosen name will help define this rover’s unique personality among our fleet of Martian spacecraft.”
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