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Mars Helicopter gets a new name: Ingenuity

Picking up on a suggestion from an Alabama high-school junior, NASA has given an ingenious name to the first helicopter due to take flight on Mars.

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2020 Mars rover gets its name: Perseverance

Perseverance rover
An artist’s conception shows NASA’s next rover at work on the Martian surface. (NASA Illustration)

NASA’s next Mars rover was named Perseverance today, following up on a suggestion made by a seventh-grader in Virginia.

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Pick your favorite name for NASA’s Mars rover

2020 Mars rover
More than 28,000 students submitted names for the rover that NASA plans to launch toward Mars in July. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Illustration)

NASA and an army of nearly 4,700 volunteer judges have selected nine potential names for a rover that’s due to be launched to Mars in July, and you have just six days to cast an online vote for your favorite name.

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Hey, kids! Name NASA’s 2020 Mars rover

Mars 2020 rover
This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on the surface of Mars. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

NASA says a student will provide the official name for its 2020 Mars rover, continuing a tradition that began 16 years ago.

The space agency will kick off its “Name the Rover” contest on Sept. 3, just as most elementary schools and high schools are getting back into session.

One grand prize winner will name the rover and win an invitation to the spacecraft’s launch next July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Put your name on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover

Members of the public who sign up to have their names sent to Mars will get a souvenir boarding pass to print out as well. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Image)

Space fans have been sending their names to Mars and other extraterrestrial destinations for more than two decades, and it’s that time again: From now until Sept. 30, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is taking names for the Mars 2020 rover mission.

All you have to do is type your name and location into an online form on NASA’s website and hit the “Send” button. You’ll instantly get the opportunity to print out or save a souvenir boarding pass, listing more than 300 million miles’ worth of faux frequent-flier award points.

Once all the names pass muster, they’ll be handed over to JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory to be etched onto a silicon chip with an electron beam. Each line of text will be a mere 75 nanometers wide — which is less than a thousandth the thickness of a human hair.

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NASA picks landing site for Mars 2020 rover

Jezero Crater
This color-coded image of the Jezero Crater delta combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / JHU-APL)

One week before the next Mars mission is due to land, NASA has chosen the landing site for its next next Mars mission. Jezero Crater will be where NASA’s yet-to-be-named rover will land on Feb. 18, 2021, the space agency announced today.

“It’s a Thursday,” said Allen Chen, who’s leading the entry, descent and landing team for what’s currently known as NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. That touchdown is due to come seven months after the mission’s launch in mid-July 2020.

Jezero Crater is thought to be the site of an ancient river delta on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Scientists say the 28-mile-wide crater’s rocks and soil may contain organic molecules and other traces of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

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Here’s how NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will look

Mars 2020 rover
This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on the surface of Mars. (NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The rover that NASA is getting ready to send to Mars in 2020 looks a lot like the Curiosity rover that’s been working on Mars for almost five years – except for that freakishly big robotic arm.

The arm is one of the keys to the rover’s more ambitious mission: to turn up potential traces left behind by ancient life on the Red Planet, and to tuck away samples for eventual return to Earth.

The six-wheeled robot, built on the same type of chassis used for Curiosity, is due for launch in the summer of 2020 toward one of three sites: Northeast Syrtis Major, Jezero Crater or Columbia Hills.

NASA probably won’t decide which site to target for another year or two, but in the meantime, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory put out a new artist’s concept showing the 2020 rover at a Martian work site. The site shown in the picture actually looks a lot like Curiosity’s stomping grounds in Gale Crater.

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