NASA Mars 2020 'Name the Rover' essay contest is now open

Starting today, kindergarten through high school students located in the United States can submit essays to NASA's 'Name the Rover' contest. The space agency is soliciting name suggestions for its Mars 2020 rover, which will be launched for its mission to Mars next year. The contest will be open to students until November 1 and the final selection will be revealed early next year.

The Mars 2020 rover is a massive 2,300lb robot that will eventually roll around on Mars. The rover will be tasked with hunting for signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet, where it will utilize various systems, including a large robotic arm and remote sensing mast.

Assuming everything goes according to plan, NASA will launch the Mars 2020 rover in July 2020. Ahead of that, however, the space agency will declare the rover's official name on February 18. The final name will be chosen from nine finalists made available for the public to vote on in January 2020.

Kids in the K-12 age brackets in the United States can offer their own name suggestions in NASA's contest by submitting an essay (up to 150 words) with their suggestion and an explanation about why it should be chosen. NASA will split the essays into grade levels K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.

According to NASA, name suggestions will be judged based on multiple factors, including the appropriateness of the name, its originality, and significance. The essays will also be judged for quality and originality. Three finalists per group of semifinalists will be chosen to advance to a final round.