Competition to name new Mars rover: How about Marsy McMarsface?

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The European Space Agency is looking for a name for its new Mars rover which will land on the red planet in 2021.

Launching in 2020, the rover is currently named ExoMars, but the team behind the mission are looking for an alternative name to engage the public.

Firing a starter pistol on the race to find a suitable name, British astronaut Tim Peake told the Farnborough Airshow on Friday:

“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.

“The ExoMars rover is a vital part of this journey of exploration and we’re asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the Martian surface.”

The UK is the second largest European contributor to the ExoMars mission, behind Italy, having invested £256m (€287m) in the mission and £14m (€15m) on the instruments.

The outgoing planetary protection officer described Mars in 2015 as "pretty clean"
Image:
Humans will one day work beside robots to colonise Mars, says Major Tim Peake

The competition has seemingly been designed to avoid a repeat of the Boaty McBoatface incident which embarrassed the creators of the polar research ship which was eventually called the RRS Sir David Attenborough despite the public favourite a different moniker.

Instead of a public poll allowing people to swarm behind Marsy McMarsface, the competition requires people to write in their suggested names for the new ExoMars Rover.

As well as the honour of naming the rover, whoever wins the competition will be toured around the Airbus facility in Stevenage where the rover is being built.

Science minister Sam Gyimah said: “Exploring the surface of another planet is what many scientists and researchers dream of and now a British-built rover will travel the surface of Mars to answer some fundamental questions, and the public can be part of this exciting new chapter by naming the rover.

“We want creative and bold entries – I’ll start the ball rolling with Rover McRoverface!

“The ExoMars mission showcases the very best of the UK’s world-leading robotics expertise and this mission will inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and space enthusiasts to be part of the journey as the UK continues to reach for the stars.”



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