Rover Name Finalists Selected, But Are They Well Chosen?


Maximilian Looft


The week of waiting is finally over, and the nine finalists have been chosen to name the new Mars rover launching this year. None of the local contestants have made it to this final round.

Along with this final round came news of schedule delays, setting the final announcement date back to March 15.

The stress of choosing the finalists can well be imagined: Eight days to decide which nine of the 156 would be chosen to move on. Eight days to consider the merits of the contestants’ essays and interviews and to decide which names were best. Eight days clearly wasn’t enough. 

Though without a doubt there were professionals determining which names would move on to the final round, the chosen finalists make it seem as if the type of name they were going for was predetermined. 

Every finalist name — Endurance, Tenacity, Promise, Perseverance, Vision, Clarity, Fortitude, Courage, and Ingenuity — is similar. They are all akin to previous rover names, drawing inspiration from Curiosity and Opportunity. These are good names, yet none of the contestants who chose to be more original with their names were chosen as finalists. The bias is clear.

Contestants in every grade range brought up fantastic names, such as A.L.I.E.T.T. (Ancient Life Investigator Of Extra-Terrestrial Turf) by Linkoln Custer from Milwaukie, Ore., and R.I.D.E. (Revolutionizing Interplanetary Discoveries and Exploration) by Nidhi Nair, from Holmdel, N.J. 

Roughly half of the proposed names were similar to those of the finalists, and the other half were more original and creative, yet none of the latter type were chosen. The most likely reason is that the judges wanted to have a name similar to the other rovers, keeping their current naming tradition alive. It’s almost like there was one unspoken rule that mattered the most: Don’t be creative. 

This clearly goes against NASA’s goal to inspire and reward today’s young generation, those who not only have a deep admiration for science but also have the drive to show they care.

The kids who took a risk were only granted the title of “semifinalist,” a pat on the back as their well-thought-out name was pushed aside for something ordinary like “Promise.”