From Curiosity to Perseverance. The next NASA rover to go to Mars has assumed its new name that follows the tradition of using virtues as names. This particular virtue was suggested by Alexander Mather, a 13-year-old high school student from Virginia (U.S.A.). He and 28,000 other children proposed names in a contest held in 2019. Of those, 155 were semi-finalists. Later, the nine finalists were: resistance, tenacity, promise, vision, clarity, ingenuity, fortitude, courage and, of course, the winner, perseverance. Un-chosen names may be used in the future and captivate and inspire the public for generations to come.
Why is perseverance more than adequate? Because the history of Mars rovers has been marked by this quality, far exceeding the duration of their official missions.
"There has never been exploration, there has never been history, without perseverance," said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Scientific Mission Directorate, announcing the name during the press conference.
The final name of "Perseverance Technologies" was decided by a panel of experts including astronauts, rover engineers and Clara Ma (winner of the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory name contest for the rover Curiosity). So after Spirit and Opportunity at the time, Curiosity and Insight exploring the dusty surface of Mars, it will now be Perseverance that launches into our neighbouring red planet between July and August 2020 and that in less than a year will join their ranks.
"This was a good opportunity to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again," said young Mather. "This Mars rover will help pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try to help in any way I could. Refusing the challenge was not an option".
The name Perseverance has guaranteed Mather a visit to Cape Canaveral on the day of the rover launch and, of course, create a link forever with this long-awaited mission.
"Like all previous exploration missions, our rover will face challenges and make surprising discoveries. He has already overcome many obstacles to get us to where we are today," Zurbuchen said. "Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they are going to take the next steps into space leading to Mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance."
Perseverance will be equipped with a chip with the names of the eight semi-finalists and, although we will have great coverage of the mission as the launch time approaches, meanwhile, we can enjoy the new Twitter account of the rover Perseverance itself.
The rover is expected to land on Mars on February 18, 2021 at the Jezero crater. The rover’s work will focus not only on Mars' past but also on its future.