For scientists at the European Space Agency, sending a robot to Mars is apparently not quite as hard as bestowing it with an appropriate moniker— that may be why they're giving the public the opportunity to name their next rover.
Built by the UK Space Agency, the robot is currently known as ExoMars. It will be launched in 2020 and is expected to make landfall on the Red Planet in March 2021.
It will be the first of its kind to travel across the martian surface and its mission will be to determine if evidence of life is buried underground. To do that, it will collect and analyse samples with next-generation instruments using solar panels to generate electrical power.
It will be the first mission to combine the capability to move across the surface and to study Mars at depth.
Become part of an 'exciting mission'
“Mars is a fascinating destination, a place where humans will one day work alongside robots to gather new knowledge and search for life in our Solar System,” British astronaut Tim Peake said back in July to announce the competition.
“The ExoMars rover is a vital part of this journey of exploration and we are asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the martian surface,” he added.
Members of the public have until October 10, 2018 to submit their proposal via an online form.
The name can be a single word, a short combination of words or an acronym. It must not have been used for any past, present or proposed space mission and if it honours a person, said person must have died on or before October 10, 1993. Entrants can also write a brief explanation for their choice.
To avoid embarassing names from winning, such as when members of the public voted for a British polar research ship to be named Boaty McBoatface in a similar competition, a judging panel will select the winning entry.
Its creator will also be invited to visit the Airbus facility in Stevenage, in England's south-east, where the rover was built.