Perseverance will seek signs of ancient life and could pave the way for a manned mission.
Mars rover’s new name was announced on 5 March after a six month “Name the Rover” competition. The competition drew more than 28,000 entries from students in kindergarten through to high school. Students were asked to make their name suggestions in essays.
A team of 4,700 volunteer judges narrowed the submitted entries down to 155 with NASA selecting the winner. The other creative names from the 155 semi-finalists that did not make the cut include Clarity, Courage, Endurance, Fortitude, Ingenuity, Promise, Tenacity and Vision.
The winning entry came from seventh grader, Alex Mather. His attendance at the space agency’s Space Camp at the age of 11 sparked his interest in becoming a NASA engineer.
Mather wants to get a degree in engineering or science and hopes to work at NASA as an engineer.
“I immediately knew space was something I was doing for the rest of my life,” Mather said.
In his essay 13-year-old Mather wrote: “We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere.”
Mather’s prize is an invitation for him and his family to witness the rover’s launch in July in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
When the rover lands on the Red Planet in February 2021 it will touch down in Jezero Crater, the site of a lake that existed 3.5 billion years ago. The next generation rover will build on the goals of previous robotic explorers by collecting the first samples of Mars which would be returned to Earth at a later date. The rover will join a growing family of NASA missions currently operating on and around Mars including the Curiosity rover, the InSight stationary lander and the Mars orbiters.
The 2020 rover’s work will begin in areas of Jezero Crater where it will search for signs of ancient life including mineral deposits and perhaps even microscopic fossils.
Perseverance will also be on a mission to lay the groundwork for future human exploration by testing out instruments that will use ground penetrating radar for the first time, study weather science and convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.