School kids to name NASA's Mars 2020 rover, winner will be announced in March

With more than 28,000 essays submitted, one winner will get to watch the launch live from Cape Canaveral.

In a unique and exciting contest, NASA has shortlisted students from all across the USA to name its latest Mars Rover that would be shot into space in July this year.

One student out of the selected 155 semifinalists for the 'Name the Rover' essay challenge would receive the opportunity to christen the rover with a name and witness its launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

According to a joint release by Jet Propulsion Laboratory and NASA HQ, the currently unnamed rover is a robotic scientist weighing more than 1,000 kilograms

A rendition of the Mars 2020 rover studying its surroundings. Image courtesy: NASA

A rendition of the Mars 2020 rover studying its surroundings. Image courtesy: NASA

Its mission objectives include: searching for signs of past microbial life, characterizing the planet's climate and geology, collection of samples for a future return to Earth and paving 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," said Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division.

"This contest is a cool way to engage the next generation and encourage careers in all STEM fields. The chosen name will help define this rover's unique personality among our fleet of Martian spacecraft."

With more than 28,000 essay submissions received from K-12 students, NASA recruited volunteer contest judges from every U.S. state and territory.

The 4,700 eligible judge volunteers, who were selected from a diverse pool of educators, professionals, and space enthusiasts, played an instrumental role in selecting the semifinalists.

The next phases of judging would reduce the competition to nine finalists, and the public would get the opportunity to vote for their favourite name online in late January. The result of the poll would be taken into consideration for choosing the final name.

The nine finalists would then hold talks with a panel of experts, including Glaze, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA JPL rover driver Nick Wiltsie and Clara Ma, who proposed the name for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, as a sixth-grade student in 2009. The grand prize winner would be announced in early March 2020.

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