Now that the Mars rover Phoenix has succumbed to dust and bitter cold, it's time to look forward to the next rover mission: The Mars Science Laboratory.
"The Mars Science Laboratory"
(cue the crickets...)
Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue like "Spirit", "Endeavor", "Opportunity" or "Phoenix" does it?
The folks at NASA agree and have partnered with "Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures' movie WALL-E from Pixar Animation Studios" to create a contest to give the "Mars Science Laboratory" a cooler name.
The contest is open to student's 5-18 years old who attend a US school. Students must submit essays explaining why their suggested name for the rover should be chosen. The public will vote on finalists and the winner will be announced in April, 2009.
Disney is contributing prizes for winning essays including a trip to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover is under construction. The grand prize winner will have an opportunity to place a signature on the spacecraft and take part in the history of space exploration.
And take heart. These essays don't have to be philosophical masterpieces. NASA has sponsored these naming contests in the past and the last contest was won by the following:
I used to live in an Orphanage.
It was dark and cold and lonely.
At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better.
I dreamed I could fly there.
In America, I can make all my dreams come true.....
Thank-you for the "Spirit" and the "Opportunity"
— Sofi Collis, age 9
Official information about the contest can be found here here. (http://marsrovername.jpl.nasa.gov/)