NASA is inviting students to name its newest rover for the upcoming 2020 Mars mission.
Students at U.S. public, private and home schools can enter an essay contest to explain why their proposed name should be picked. The winner will get to name the rover as well as watch the spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020, the agency announced.
The rover, a 2,300-pound robot, will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology and collect samples on the red planet, according to NASA.
The robot already has its computer brain, robotic arm, wheels, a sample caching system and other electronics installed, according to George Tahu, Mars 2020 program executive.
In 2009, a sixth-grade student from Kansas named the Mars Curiosity rover, which has has been examining Mars since landing on August 6, 2012.
The car-sized Mars 2020 rover is based on the Curiosity rover’s configuration, according to space agency’s website.
NASA said all entries will be judged based on their originality, appropriateness and significance to the mission.
Judges will choose 52 semifinalists to represent each state and U.S. territory, and three finalists then will be selected from each area to advance to the final round.
Once all the finalists are narrowed down in January 2020, the public will be able to vote online for the best name, NASA says.
The deadline to enter the contest in Nov. 1, 2019, and the winner will be announced Feb. 18, 2020, one year before the rover is expected to land on the surface of Mars. Details on how to enter can be found here.
Those over 18 years old who want to help judge the entries coming in from all over the country can sign up online.