Meet Perseverance: Mars 2020 Rover Named By Teen

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover has a new name: Perseverance.

Virginia seventh-grader Alexander Mather won the agency’s “Name the Rover” essay contest, beating 28,000 other entries.

The title was announced Thursday by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, during a celebration at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va.

“Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration,” Zurbuchen said in a statement. “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,” he added.

Perseverance is the latest in a long line of Red Planet rovers to be named by school children: from Sojourner in 1997 to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that landed on Mars in 2004, to Curiosity, which has been exploring the fourth planet from the Sun since 2012.

Each moniker was selected following a nationwide contest.

The competition to christen NASA’s Mars 2020 rover began in August; some 4,700 volunteer judges reviewed submissions to narrow the pool to 155 semifinalists.

Once whittled down to nine finalists, the public had five days to vote for their favorites—submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for consideration.

Until recently, Mather was more interested in video games than space, according to NASA. But during a 2018 visit to Space Camp in Alabama—where he first glimpsed a Saturn V rocket—the 13-year-old became a “bona fide space enthusiast.”

“This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again,” he said of the naming contest. “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.”

Spoken like a true teenager.

Along with forever being associated with the mission, Mather and his family are invited to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this summer to watch the rover launch.

Thomas Zurbuchen (left) and Lori Glaze (right) congratulate Alexander Mather (center), who won a contest to name the next Mars rover (via NASA)

NASA is also acknowledging the contributions of those semifinalists whose entries did not win: All 155 proposed names and essays have been stenciled onto a silicon chip—in lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair—to be flown to Mars aboard the rover.

“They came so far, and their expressive submissions helped make this naming contest the biggest and best in NASA history,” according to Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “So we decided to send them a little farther—314 million miles farther.”

Perseverance is currently undergoing final assembly and checkout at the Kennedy Space Center. It is scheduled to land at Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

“Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they’re going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars,” Zurbuchen said. “That inspiring work will always require perseverance. We can’t wait to see that nameplate on Mars.”

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