NASA’s newest Mars land rover has a name — and the new moniker was chosen by a persevering seventh grader from Virginia.
Alexander Mather, a student at the Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, submitted the winning entry for NASA’s “Name the Rover” essay contest.
The 13-year-old’s suggestion for the rover’s title “captured the spirit of exploration,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, said at a presentation at the school on Thursday.
“Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it’s going to make amazing discoveries,” Zurbuchen continued.
“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.”
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In his entry essay, Mather pointed out the importance of perseverance in science and beyond.
“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,” he wrote in his submission, according to CNN.
“But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing,” the middle schooler wrote.
“We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh,” he continued. “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.”
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The Perseverance rover is undergoing “final assembly and checkout” at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to the space agency. Launch is scheduled for July.
Mather plans to persevere through school with his sights set on a job as an engineer at NASA one day.
After attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, two years ago, Mather told CNN, “I immediately knew space was something I was doing for the rest of my life.”