In December 2008, a young student named Clara Ma submitted a name for a project NASA then called the “Mars Science Laboratory.” With a 250 word essay, Clara suggested the name “Curiosity.”

The Curiosity rover has covered over 13 miles of terrain on the Martian surface. Seven years later, the car-sized robotic explorer is the face of science on the red planet.

This July, NASA’s next rover will launch. Today, NASA opened the contest for K-12 students to name the Mars 2020 rover, in partnership with Battelle and Future Engineers.

How the contest works

Students will submit a name and a brief essay advocating for their choice. You can read the complete rules here and submit your entry on the Future Engineers student portal here:

https://www.futureengineers.org/nametherover

The contest begins today and runs until November 1, 2019.

Adults can help choose the winning name

The contest is still seeking adults to help select the winning name. Judges simply need to be a U.S. resident. The expected time commitment is just five hours.

How the Mars 2020 rover will advance science

The Mars 2020 rover is the first leg of a potential Mars Sample return campaign. The new rover brings a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a “cache” on the surface of Mars. A future mission could return these samples to Earth.

The rover is more than 10 feet long and weighs more than 2,300 pounds. That’s around the size and weight of a very light compact car. It will pursue four science goals:

  • Looking for Habitability – Identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life
  • Seeking Biosignatures – Seek astrobiological signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
  • Caching Samples – Collect core rock and “soil” samples and store them on the Martian surface
  • Preparing for Humans – Test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere

How to bring this to your classroom

On September 9 at 2 p.m. EST, Dr. Stephanie Johnson from Battelle, and Tanya Silva from Future Engineers provided a free webinar on activities to use in classrooms based around the naming competition.

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