Battelle’s portfolio of STEM schools and STEM networks promoted the contest, along with partners including the Conrad Foundation, National Science Teaching Association, the Association of Science-Technology Centers, and the STEM Next Opportunity Fund. Battelle and partners promoted the event through conference presentations, webinars for educators, social media and other challenges. NASA chose Battelle and Future Engineers to manage the naming contest through a competitive request for proposals in 2019.
“Through this contest, we saw the incredible creativity, passion, and intellect of the young leaders who will form America’s next generation of innovators,” said Wes Hall, Vice President of Education and Philanthropy at Battelle. “We commend today’s winner and every student who looked up at the sky and imagined this rover’s place in history.”
The name was announced March 5 by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, during a celebration at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. Zurbuchen was at the school to congratulate seventh grader Alexander Mather, who 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.
“Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration,” said Zurbuchen. “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.”
The contest that resulted in Alex’s winning entry of Perseverance began Aug. 28, 2019. Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges – educators, professionals and space enthusiasts from around the country – reviewed submissions to help narrow the pool down to 155 semifinalists. Once that group was whittled down to nine finalists, the public had five days to weigh in on their favorites, logging more than 770,000 votes online, with the results submitted to NASA for consideration. The nine finalists also talked with a panel of experts, including Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division; NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins; rover driver Nick Wiltsie at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California; and Clara Ma, who, as a sixth grade student in 2009, named Curiosity.
Along with forever being associated with the mission, Mather will also receive an invitation to travel with his family to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to witness the rover begin its journey when it launches this summer. “This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again,” said Mather. “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.”
NASA’s Perseverance rover is a robotic scientist weighing just under 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). Managed for the agency by JPL, the rover’s astrobiology mission includes searching for signs of past microbial life. It also will characterize the planet’s climate and geology and collect samples of Martian rocks and dust for a future Mars Sample Return mission to Earth, while paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
Perseverance currently is undergoing final assembly and checkout at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s targeted to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater a little after 3:40 p.m. EST (12:40 p.m. PST) Feb. 18, 2021.
For more information about the mission, go to: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
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