And the Name Is … Perseverance

And the Name Is … Perseverance

NASA announced the new name for its Mars 2020 rover today:  Perseverance.  The name was chosen though a student contest and the announcement was made at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, VA where the student whose essay won the day goes to school.  The rover is at Kennedy Space Center getting ready for launch in July.  Technicians there attached the nameplate while today’s ceremonies were underway.

The Mars 2020 rover is a cousin of the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012.  The spacecraft builds on the legacy of of the Curiosity design, although the science instruments are new.  In particular, the new rover will collect and store (“cache”) samples that will be eventually returned to Earth.

Alex Mather, a seventh-grader from Springfield, VA, wrote the winning essay explaining why he thinks it should be named Perseverance, putting it in the context of four previous NASA spacecraft that landed on Mars (Curiosity, Spirit, Opportunity, and InSight) and India’s Vikram lunar rover that crashed into the Moon while attempting to land last year.  Curiosity and InSight are still operating. Spirit and Opportunity lasted for 6 years and 19 years respectively.

Alex Mather, 13, reading his essay to an audience of schoolmates and dignitaries at Lake Braddock Secondary School, Burke, VA, March 5, 2020. Screengrab from NASA TV.

Curiosity. InSight. Spirit. Opportunity. If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious, and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. Even faced with bitter losses such as Opportunity and Vikram 2, the human race will always persevere into the future.  — Alex Mather

Alex and his family won the prize, sponsored by Amazon Web Services, of traveling to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) for the launch of Perseverance in July.  The precise launch date has not been set, but the launch window opens on July 17 and the spacecraft is due to land on Mars on February 18, 2021.

In all, 28,000 K-12 students submitted entries, from which 155 semifinalists were selected and then narrowed to nine:

  • Ingenuity
  • Endurance
  • Vision
  • Tenacity
  • Perseverance
  • Fortitude
  • Courage
  • Promise
  • Clarity

NASA reports that 770,000 votes were cast around the world in an online poll, which informed the selection.  The names of the 155 semifinalists have been stenciled onto a chip that will be mounted to the rover.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) manages the program.  They also did not know which name would win, so created multiple nameplates ready to install whichever was selected. The nameplate attaches to the rover’s robotic arm and will serve as a rock guard.  Technicians at KSC attached the Perseverance nameplate to the rover today while the festivities were taking place.

Perseverance nameplate attached to the Mars 2020 rover at Kennedy Space Center. Screengrab from NASA TV, March 5, 2020.


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