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First came Curiosity, now comes Perseverance: NASA’s new Mars rover gets a name

In this image released by NASA, Alex Mather, the student whose submission, Perseverance, was chosen as the official name of the Mars 2020 rover, reads his essay entry, Thursday, March 5, 2020, at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va.
In this image released by NASA, Alex Mather, the student whose submission, Perseverance, was chosen as the official name of the Mars 2020 rover, reads his essay entry, Thursday, March 5, 2020, at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Va. Aubrey Gemignani/NASA via AP

NASA’s next Mars rover finally has a name. Perseverance, a six-wheeled robotic explorer, will blast off this summer to collect Martian samples for eventual return to Earth.

The name was suggested by Alex Mather, a Virginia seventh-grader, as part of a naming contest for U.S. schoolchildren. The U.S. space agency announced it Thursday at Alex’s school in Burke, Virginia, and he got to read his winning essay live on NASA TV.

“We are a species of explorers and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere,” Alex wrote. “We, not as a nation, but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”

READ MORE: Mysterious ‘hum’ detected amid hundreds of quakes on Mars

NASA’s associate administrator for science missions, Thomas Zurbuchen, noted that the space agency’s Curiosity rover has been roaming around Mars since 2012, when Alex and his classmates were babies or little kids.

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“Perseverance and curiosity together are what exploration is all about,” he said.

Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges had narrowed a pool of 28,000 contest entries down to 155 semifinalists. Once it was down to nine finalists, the public was invited to vote online.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover snaps 1.8 billion-pixel panorama of Martian landscape
NASA’s Curiosity Rover snaps 1.8 billion-pixel panorama of Martian landscape

Mather and his family won a trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to watch Perseverance get launched into space in July. The boy became enamored with space at age 11 while attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. That’s when video games took a back seat. He said he wants to become an engineer and work for NASA.

The rover is undergoing final preparations at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The nameplate will be on the rover’s robot arm and serve as a protective rock guard.