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Northern Virginia middle schooler names NASA'S new Mars rover

The winning name was picked out of 28,000 submissions from grade school students across the country.

NASA's new Mars rover has officially been named Perseverance. 

The announcement was made Thursday during a celebration at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. Alex Mather, a seventh grader at the school, submitted the winning entry to the "Name the Rover" essay contest. 

NASA received more than 28,000 essay entries last year submitted by students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

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NASA says nearly 4,700 educators, professional and space enthusiasts from across the country helped narrow it down to 155 semifinalists. That was later narrowed down to nine finalists which were submitted to a public opinion poll.

NASA says the final selection came from Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration,” said Zurbuchen. “Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it’s going to make amazing discoveries. It’s already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today – processing for launch. Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they’re going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance. We can’t wait to see that nameplate on Mars.”

The rover is targeted to land on Mars' Jezero Crater around 2:40 p.m. Eastern on Feb. 18, 2021.

In addition to taking photos and samples, the rover will be equipped with a pulsed laser that can vaporize small portions of rock from up to 20 feet away NASA says it may help find signs of fossilized microbial life.

NASA has set a goal of returning to the moon by 2024 and to have astronauts stationed there by 2028. It's the next step toward getting humans to Mars, but a date certain on a journey to the red planet has not yet been set.