Nasa has launched a contest to name its next Mars Rover and the suggestions are wearyingly predictable.
In 2020, the currently unnamed rover will blast off to the Red Planet on a mission to discover traces of alien life.
The space agency has teamed up with two schools: Battelle Education in Columbus, Ohio, and Future Engineers in Burbank, California.
Students from both institutions will choose the name, but Nasa also wants members of the public to apply to be a judge who will help decide the final moniker.
‘We’re very excited about this exceptional partnership,’ said George Tahu, Mars 2020 program executive in NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.
‘Contests like this present excellent opportunities to invite young students and educators to be a part of this journey to understand the possibilities for life beyond Earth and to advance new capabilities in exploration technology.’
You may remember the public vote which resulted in more than 100,000 calling for a research vessel to be called Boaty McBoatFace.
And, of course, the internet hasn’t forgotten.
On Twitter, the top choice of name right now is Rover McRoverFace, although Mars McMarsFace has also been mooted.
Sadly, we don’t think anyone has proposed Martian McMartianFace yet, although this name has been posted on Twitter in relation to previous stories.
Last year, Nasa announced plans to send a rover to a dried-up lake bed called Jezero Crater and search for traces of alien organisms.
Its Mars 2020 mission will ‘seek signs of ancient habitable conditions and past microbial life’ as well as collecting samples which will be left in a cache on the Martian surface.
The American space agency then hopes to team up with the European Space Agency for a future mission to return these samples to Earth.
‘The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate.
‘Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbour life.’
Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, which is a gigantic basin north of the Martian equator that was formed by an asteroid impact some 3.9 billion years ago.
It’s a 28-mile-wide indentation which is believed to have once been a river delta, meaning it may have ‘collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments’ that flowed into it billions of years ago.
The site was chosen after a five-year search.
‘The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive,’ said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
‘But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies.’
Source: Read Full Article