No child has ever blasted into orbit, but now American children have a chance to do the next best thing. Beginning today, LEGO announced that kids can actually compete to name two spacecraft that will be sent to Mars as part of NASA's upcoming Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. The "Name the Rovers" contest, managed by The LEGO Company and The Planetary Society in conjunction with NASA, provides students with the unbelievable opportunity to suggest a name for the two Mars-bound rovers, temporarily known as MER-A and MER-B, which are slated to launch respectively in June and July 2003, and land on Mars in January/February 2004.
"The LEGO Company is dedicated to furthering hands-on, minds-on discovery, playful learning, and the boundless frontiers of imagination. Space exploration also embraces these qualities - which is why the LEGO Company is so pleased to partner with NASA," says Brad Justus, Senior Vice President of LEGO Company. "By involving children actively in the Mars' missions through the "Name the Rovers" contest and with other related activities, we hope to help excite and inspire the next generation of space explorers."
"We are very excited about providing students with an opportunity to actively participate in the next mission to Mars," says Dave Lavery, Program Executive for Solar System Exploration at NASA Headquarters. "We are eagerly looking for some really creative and innovative ideas from the students as they compete to name the next Mars rovers and become part of history."
The Name the Rovers Contest is open to all students 5 to 18 years of age who are in grades K-12 in the U.S. Submissions must include suggested names for both rovers and a 50-500 word essay justifying why the students believe the names should be chosen. It is intended that the Grand Prize winner's entry will be used to name the Mars Rovers. In addition, the Grand Prize includes a 4-day/3-night expenses-paid trip for four to witness the launches of the newly named rovers at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Students can suggest names taken from mythology, fiction, or history. "In order to succeed, students must not only suggest excellent names, but also justify and argue for those names in their essays," said Bruce Betts, Director of Projects for The Planetary Society. "As such, the contest requires research, critical thought, and strong writing skills by the students, leading to a deeper educational experience."
The contest is open for submissions beginning today through January 31, 2003. NASA will announce the contest winners prior to the launch of the rovers in the spring of 2003.
Name the Rovers Contest Details
The Name the Rovers contest is easy to enter. Entries will be divided into three age groups: 5-7, 8-12, and 13-18, each of which will have its own age-appropriate requirements. Each submitted essay will be judged on originality, the quality of the essay, including justification for the names, and how the names best embody the spirit of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. Names associated with trademarked items, names of living persons, or names used on previous NASA spacecraft will not be considered.
The Planetary Society and LEGO Company have an additional connection to NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission with their recently announced Red Rover Goes to Mars project which will select students from around the world to work in mission operations at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.