NASA’s next Mars rover has a new name – Perseverance. Alexander Mather, a 13-year-old student from Virginia submitted the winning name. The seventh-grader submitted the winning entry to the agency’s “Name the Rover” essay contest, which received 28,000 entries from K-12 students from every U.S. state and territory.
According to Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, “Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration. 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.”
According to NASA’s statement, “Perseverance is the latest in a long line of Red Planet rovers to be named by school-age children, from Sojourner in 1997 to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on Mars in 2004, to Curiosity, which has been exploring Mars since 2012. In each case, the name was selected following a nationwide contest.”
As reported by NASA, “Up until two years ago, Mather was more interested in video games than space. That all changed in the summer of 2018 when he visited Space Camp in Alabama. From his first glimpse of a Saturn V – the rocket that launched the Apollo astronauts to the Moon half a century ago – Mather became a bona fide space enthusiast, checking NASA.gov daily, consuming astronaut autobiographies and even 3D-printing flyable model rockets. When the call went out for students to propose a name for NASA’s new Mars rover, Mather knew he wanted to contribute.”
Mather adds, “This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again. This Mars rover will help pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusal of the challenge was not an option.”