Think you have what it takes to name NASA’s next rover? Well, it’s time to get creative because now’s your chance!
NASA announced that K–12 students can enter the Mars 2020 Name the Rover essay contest now through Nov. 1.
“This naming contest is a wonderful opportunity for our nation’s youth to get involved with NASA’s Moon to Mars missions,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement.
“It is an exciting way to engage with a rover that will likely serve as the first leg of a Mars Sample return campaign, collecting and CACHING core samples from the Martian surface for scientists here on Earth to study for the first time.”
The Mars 2020 rover weighs in at a whopping 2,300 pounds and is designed to help pave the way for humans to eventually visit the Red Planet. NASA said it’s also hoping that the naming contest inspires students’ interest in space and science, technology, engineering, and math.
For those students who want to try their hand at naming the next robotic scientist, they have to write an essay that is no more than 150 words explaining why their proposed name should be the one that NASA chooses.
After the Nov. 1 deadline, students’ essays will be divided into three groups based on grade level. According to NASA, there is some criteria that each essay will be judged on: appropriateness, significance and originality of the proposed name, and the originality and quality of the essay, and/or finalist interview presentation. The essays will be narrowed down through several rounds and then the public will get to vote online for the nine finalists in January 2020.
NASA says it plans to announce the winner on Feb. 18, 2020, which just so happens to be one year before the rover will land on the surface of Mars. The grand prize winner will not only get to name the rover but will also be invited to visit Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020!
To learn more, visit https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/name-the-rover/.
Polka-dotted Zebra Spotted in Kenya
MASAI MARA RESERVE, Kenya—A rare and wonderful zebra foal is hoofing it with its mom and the rest of the herd on the Masai Mara Reserve. The first people to “spot” the foal in September were confused by what they saw.
Instead of black and white stripes, the little fella is brown…with polka dots!!!
The reserve is 583 square miles of savannah wilderness along southwestern Kenya. It’s home to millions of African animals. Even tour guide Anthony Tira, who first spotted the foal, wondered what he was looking at. Was it a cross between a zebra and something else? Was it just a different breed of EQUINE in with the zebra herd? Did some oddball biologist paint the foal to make tracking it easier?
The answer turns out to be D) none of the above!
This foal suffers a genetic condition called pseudomelanism. In zebras, the skin is dark and transfers a dark pigment called melanin into only some hairs to make the dark stripes.
But the melanin transfer of this foal caused its hair to be noticeably brown with white polka dots!
Since he was the first one to see it, the foal was named after him—Tira. Other odd-colored foals have been seen and photographed in other wildlife areas, but this is a first for Masai Mara, and excited visitors and photographers have been flocking to the reserve in hopes of spotting the foal.