LOS ANGELES, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- US space agency NASA is inviting students across the United States to find a name for its next Mars rover mission, according to a latest release of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Starting Tuesday, K-12 students in US public, private and home schools can join the Mars 2020 "Name the Rover" essay contest, said the release.
To enter the contest, students must submit by Nov. 1 their proposed rover name and a short essay, no more than 150 words, explaining why their proposed name should be chosen.
As part of the final selection process, the public will have an opportunity to vote online on the nine finalists in January 2020.
One grand prize winner will name the rover and be invited to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA plans to announce the selected name on Feb. 18, 2020 -- exactly one year before the rover will land on the surface of Mars.
The "Name the Rover" contest is part of NASA's efforts to engage students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) enterprise behind Mars exploration and inspire interest in these fields.
"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.
"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," he said.
The Mars 2020 rover is a 1,040-kilogram robotic scientist that will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet's climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, according to the JPL.