Well, it looks like the next-generation rover that will be launching to Mars in 2011 (and happens to be the focal point of my PhD thesis) just got a name! Before today it was referred to as the Mars Science Laboratory or 'MSL'. But now it will go by the name Curiosity!
NASA / JPL-Caltech
An artist's rendition of Curiosity at work
The name comes from a short essay written by 12-year-old Clara Ma:
Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn't be who we are today. When I was younger, I wondered, 'Why is the sky blue?', 'Why do the stars twinkle?', 'Why am I me?', and I still do. I had so many questions, and America is the place where I want to find my answers. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder. Sure, there are many risks and dangers, but despite that, we still continue to wonder and dream and create and hope. We have discovered so much about the world, but still so little. We will never know everything there is to know, but with our burning curiosity, we have learned so much.
It's a very nice essay, and it captures the spirit of exploration inherent in a Mars mission wonderfully. My only complaint with the name is that "curiosity" does have some negative connotations (see the title to this post). It will take some getting used to, but I'm sure it will soon feel quite natural. To read more about the naming, check out the press release.