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Expert Voices

Why Persevere — to Mars? (Op-Ed)

NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, shown here in an artist's concept, will become the agency's two newest explorers on Mars when they arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021. Both were named by students as part of an essay contest.
NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, shown here in an artist's concept, will become the agency's two newest explorers on Mars when they arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021. Both were named by students as part of an essay contest.
(Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Janet Ivey is the creator and CEO of Janet's Planet, Inc. and the President of Explore Mars, Inc. She is a citizen astronaut candidate for Space for Humanity and an award-winning science educator with 12 Regional Emmy Awards and five Gracie Allen Awards, and she is a guardian and shepherdess of the next generation of space explorers. Ivey contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

As we count down to the launch of NASA's Mars Perseverance rover, Explore Mars, Inc. wants to hear your #WhyPersevere story. How have you persevered in 2020? Share your stories of strength, hope and perseverance on social media by tagging #WhyPersevere and @ExploreMars, and tune into the live launch party on July 30 at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) as we share your stories!

The #CountDownToMars has begun, and on July 30 NASA's Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance, will launch and begin its voyage to the Red Planet. Here at Explore Mars, Inc. we are asking ourselves ... #WhyPersevere?

If you haven't read or listened to rising eighth grader Alex Mather's winning "Name the Rover" essay that awarded him the honor of christening the Mars 2020 rover, Perseverance…do so now. Let your soul be lifted by this young man's words.

His essay reads:

"Curiosity. InSight. Spirit. Opportunity. If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious, and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. Even faced with bitter losses such as Opportunity and Vikram 2, the human race will always persevere into the future."  — Alex Mather

Related: What's in a name: Why NASA chose 'Perseverance' for its Mars rover

For Alex, his idea for the name was not to describe the rover but rather the people who built it. "We have the spirit to pursue opportunity, we are full of curiosity, and we have the insight to grow as a species," he said at NASA's press conference and rover name unveiling. "The previous rover names were good, but something was missing. It was without the single most prominent characteristic in human beings ... perseverance, the ability to keep on pushing the limits and to recover in the face of tragedy."

It would appear Mr. Mather had an extraordinarily prescient prediction for what we Earthlings would need in 2020, and plenty of it: Perseverance. The very same qualities it takes to design, build, launch and land a rover on Mars are exactly what humanity most needs to harness today — the ability to do the hard things and put our personal protective gear on, celebrate and advance diversity and make all scientific exploration inclusive.

We must make persevering steps to create, plan and dream of a better day. We must continue to put one brave step in front of the other, until that time and day when we will make an even grander leap and put that next step back on the moon and the first ever human step on Mars.

#WhyPersevere? Well, because tough times never last forever, but those who hang on, fight the good fight, stand for equality, do amazing work and envision brighter days for all tend to be the game changers who do indeed change the world. And yes, it takes a while, often too long a while, but I do see shifts happening which gives me hope that everlasting change is an inevitability. 

Simple but important shifts, like Explore Mars' leadership moving to make changes to our team that better reflect the beautiful diversity here on Earth and seeking to improve access to space through STEAM outreach, so that our future on Mars will reflect that diversity as well. I believe good does indeed triumph, that rovers will launch and land, that the diversity of everything is critical, and that life on and off planet Earth will only improve as we venture on to Mars and beyond because we collectively decided to persevere.

In photos: NASA's Mars Perseverance rover mission to the Red Planet

#WhyPersevere? After reading and watching the video clips of Alex's essay, for me, the answer is simple. I will persevere for students like Alex and the 28,000 K-12 students who also submitted entries, from which 155 semifinalists were selected and then eventually narrowed to nine finalists:

  • Ingenuity
  • Endurance
  • Vision
  • Tenacity
  • Perseverance
  • Fortitude
  • Courage
  • Promise
  • Clarity

(The names of the 155 semifinalists have been stenciled onto a chip that is mounted to the rover.)

#WhyPersevere? I will persevere because the Artemis Generation is full of all of the above and so much more. 

#WhyPersevere? Because achieving racial equality, diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), space and beyond will take Vision to see a future united, the Tenacity to see our dreams of human space exploration become reality, the Endurance to use the best of our creativity and science to launch the lives of all, the Fortitude of soul and compassion to get humans on Earth and on Mars to behave as the family of humanity we are, the Courage to stand up against any act of injustice, the Clarity to see an entire universe of possibilities, the Promise that the diversity of everything is essential, the Ingenuity to create new paradigms, and the Perseverance to see all these things come true — on Earth, the Moon and Mars.

Related: Meet Ingenuity: Alabama teen names NASA's pioneering Mars Helicopter 

Students chant, "Go Perseverance!" during an event to announce the official name of the Mars 2020 rover, on March 5, 2020, at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia.  (Image credit: Aubrey Gemignani/NASA)

#WhyPersevere? Because Mather's essay has a lesson for us all. Though times may be tough, harsh, full of setbacks and losses, these are often the very conditions that produce grand transformative and lasting change. We can (and must) persevere; it just may be humanity's best hope for Earth and for Mars.

Email Janet Ivey at janet@janetsplanet.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanetsPlanet, and follow Explore Mars, Inc. @ExploreMars. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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