NASA will reveal the new name of its Mars 2020 rover on Thursday

Artist's illustration on NASA's 2020 Mars rover on the Red Planet.
Artist's illustration on NASA's 2020 Mars rover on the Red Planet. (Image credit: NASA)

We won't have to call NASA's next Red Planet rover "Mars 2020" for much longer.

On Thursday (March 5), NASA will reveal the official name of the car-size robot, which is scheduled to launch this July and land inside Mars' 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater in February 2021. The unveiling will occur during a live event at 1:30 p.m. EST (1830 GMT), which will be followed at 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT) by a news conference about the name and the rover's mission.

You can watch both of these events live here at, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency.

Related: NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission in pictures

Like NASA's previous Red Planet rovers, Mars 2020 is getting its official moniker via a student naming competition. The contest, which kicked off last year, generated more than 28,000 essay submissions from K-12 students representing every U.S. state and territory, NASA officials said.

That initial pool was whittled down to 155 semifinalists, which in January were culled to nine finalists, three in each of three age categories (grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12). These nine contenders, and the students who proposed them, are:

  • Endurance, K-4, Oliver Jacobs of Virgina.
  • Tenacity, K-4, Eamon Reilly of Pennsylvania.
  • Promise, K-4, Amira Shanshiry of Massachusetts.
  • Perseverance, 5-8, Alexander Mather of Virginia.
  • Vision, 5-8, Hadley Green of Mississippi.
  • Clarity, 5-8, Nora Benitez of California.
  • Ingenuity, 9-12, Vaneeza Rupani of Alabama.
  • Fortitude, 9-12, Anthony Yoon of Oklahoma.
  • Courage, 9-12, Tori Gray of Louisiana.

NASA encouraged the public to vote for their favorite of these nine through the end of last month. But the final decision was made by Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, agency officials wrote in an update on Tuesday (March 3).

Zurbuchen will attend the name-unveiling event on Thursday, as will Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington; Deanne Bell, the founder and CEO of California-based organization Future Engineers, which ran the naming contest in partnership with NASA and Ohio-based Battelle Education; and the student who submitted the winning name.

Mars 2020's chief task involves hunting for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater, which hosted a lake and river delta billions of years ago. The six-wheeled rover will also collect and store samples for future return to Earth, where scientists can analyze the pristine Mars material in great detail.

The $2.5 billion mission also features several technology demonstrations, including a small helicopter scout and an instrument that will generate oxygen from the Red Planet's thin, carbon-dioxide-dominated atmosphere.

NASA already has an active rover on the Martian surface, Curiosity, which landed inside the 96-mile-wide (154 km) Gale Crater in August 2012. Curiosity has determined that Gale hosted a potentially life-supporting lake-and-stream system for long stretches in the ancient past. 

Curiosity was named in 2009 by Clara Ma, then a sixth grader in Kansas. Ma graduated from Yale University last year.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

OFFER: Save at least 56% with our latest magazine deal!

OFFER: Save at least 56% with our latest magazine deal!

All About Space magazine takes you on an awe-inspiring journey through our solar system and beyond, from the amazing technology and spacecraft that enables humanity to venture into orbit, to the complexities of space science.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.