The Mars 2020 rover has been a popular topic of discussion over the past several years, but it has remained rather conspicuously named up until now.
With all the other Martian rover missions sporting bold and exciting names, it should come as no surprise that NASA wasn’t planning to call this mission ‘Mars 2020’ forever. Instead, the American space agency turned to K-12 school students from across the United States for suggestions. Upon voting on more than 28,000 suggestions, NASA decided that it would call the Mars 2020 rover ‘Perseverance’ going forward.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Perseverance was the name submitted by Alexander Mather, a young seventh-grader residing in Springfield, Virginia, and it is indeed a fitting name for the mission if we do say so ourselves.
Perseverance will complement older Martian rover missions that contributed so much to what we know about our neighboring red planet. It will do so by overcoming the challenges imposed by the limitations of science equipment present on previous rover missions like Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity.
"Alex's entry captured the spirit of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate.
"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."
Poised to launch this July atop an Atlas V rocket, the Perseverance rover will incorporate novel exploration technologies including an onboard Martian rock sampling laboratory, 23 optical sensors including the highest-resolution camera on a Martian rover yet, and an advanced autonomous solar-powered helicopter that will scout out new places to explore. Moreover, it’ll include a personalized nameplate that reads “Perseverance.”
Perseverance will land in Mars’ Jezero Crater in the in mid-February 2021, a place that NASA believes may have supported life at some point in the planet’s history. Sample collection conducted in these parts promises to uncover a treasure trove of information that may help planetary scientists in their ongoing quest to better understand whether Mars was once a habitable planet or not.
It should be interesting to see what the Perseverance rover finds as it explores the alien world. Fortunately, we now have a catchy name to go along with it all.