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Illustration of Mars rover “Perseverance” Illustration of Mars rover “Perseverance”

Who names NASA’s Mars rovers?

31 March 2021

When NASA engineers need a name for a robotic Mars “rover,” they know where to find creativity. They turn to America’s young people.

More than 28,000 students — from kindergarten through 12th grade — submitted names for the rover that landed on Mars last month. It was Alex Mather, a Virginia seventh-grader, who won the contest with his suggestion, “Perseverance.”

But 155 semifinalists went along for the ride: Their names are etched in tiny lettering on the rover now exploring Mars and sending images back to Earth.

The naming contests boost students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). For the students, “it is an exciting way to engage with a rover that will likely [be] collecting and caching core samples from the Martian surface for scientists here on Earth to study,” said Jim Bridenstine in 2019, when he was NASA administrator.

Perseverance has its own Twitter handle, which lists hobbies of “photography, collecting rocks, off-roading.” But kids were giving rovers personality well before the first tweet was even sent.

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