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NASA's Mars 2020 rover gets an official name, 'Perseverance'

The new robot will join the ranks of Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity on the Red Planet within 12 months.

mars2020artist

This illustration shows what the rover will look like on Mars.

NASA
This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

NASA is set to begin another road trip on Mars, and on Thursday it announced the name of the rover that's scheduled to begin that journey to the Red Planet as soon as July: Perseverance.

For years, the new robotic explorer has been known simply as "Mars 2020." But last year, NASA held a contest asking students from around the US to write an essay suggesting a name for the rover. Over 4,000 judges reviewed more than 28,000 entries to whittle the list down to 155 semifinalists. Another round reduced the choices to just nine finalists: Endurance, Tenacity, Promise, Perseverance, Vision, Clarity, Ingenuity, Fortitude and Courage. 

The winning entry came from 13-year-old Burke, Virginia middle school student Alexander Mather, who suggested Perseverance in the essay you can hear in the video below. 

"We, not as a nation, but as humans, will not give up. We will always persevere into the future," Mather wrote.

Perseverance will join its siblings Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity on our neighboring planet.

"Perseverance and curiosity together are what exploration is all about," said NASA associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen at a live event held at Lake Braddock Secondary School, where Mather attends. 

Naturally, within seconds of the announcement, the rover also sent out its first tweet from its shiny new account:

The new rover will carry a suite of instruments designed to look for evidence of past microbial life, collect samples to be sent back to Earth in the future and gather data that will help enable eventual human exploration. 

After launch in July or August, the newly named rover will travel to Jezero Crater, which is thought to have been covered by a lake about the same size as Lake Tahoe in the distant past. Landing is set for Feb. 18, 2021.