By Amy R. Babcock
Originally published in the El Paso Herald-Post
Do you dream of traveling to space and visiting other worlds?
With NASA working hard to get humans to the Moon to stay, one of the goals of this new initiative is to go beyond the moon to the planet Mars. Before the first humans arrive on the Red Planet, though, there is still so much we don’t know about it. That’s why NASA/JPL is working tirelessly on the next phase in Mars exploration, the Mars 2020 Rover.
Now that they’ve finished putting all major instruments onboard, and have finished the initial function checks, the team is preparing the rover and its sky crane descent stage for the next big test: simulating the vibration dynamics of launch, as well as the thermal environment the rover will experience on the Martian surface.
But they still need your help.
This week, NASA/JPL has opened up the Mars 2020 Name the Rover Essay Contest and invited all students in the United States to enter. This contest is open to all public, private, and home schools. The grand prize winner will not only get to name to new rover, but they will get to travel to watch this new Martian explorer launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
“This naming contest is a wonderful opportunity for our nation’s youth to get involved with NASA’s Moon to Mars missions,” says Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator. “It is an exciting way to engage with a rover that will likely serve as the first leg of a Mars Sample return campaign, collecting and caching core samples from the Martian surface for scientists here on Earth to study for the first time.”
Want to enter for your chance to name the next Mars Rover? Students in grades K-12 must submit their proposed rover name, along with a short essay of 150 words or less, explaining why their name should be chosen. Entries must be received by November 1, 2019. These essays will be divided into three groups, by grade level and then judged on the appropriateness, significance, and originality of both the name and the essay.
Fifty-two semifinalists will be chosen from each group. These semifinalists will represent their respective state or U.S. territory. From there, three finalists will be chosen to advance to the final round. The final selection process will involve the public having an opportunity to vote online in January 2020 on the nine finalists that are chosen. NASA will announce the winning name on February 18, 2020—exactly one year before the rover is due to land on the surface of Mars.
“Our Mars 2020 rover has fully taken shape over the past several months, as the project team installed various components onto the chassis: the computer brain and electronics; wheels and mobility system; robotic arm; remote sensing mast; the seven science instruments; and finally, the sample caching system,” says George Tahu, Mars 2020 program executive. “All that’s missing is a great name!”
Send your entries to NASA and YOU could be the one to name the next Mars Rover.
Are you over the age of 18 and wish you could participate? You can! NASA/JPL still needs help judging all the entries they receive. If you’re willing to donate 5 hours of your time to read some great essays, apply to be a judge here.
Stay tuned, we’ll tell you all about the winner and new rover name once they have been chosen!