How NASA’s Perseverance rover got its name

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26)— How did the Perseverance rover — the NASA spacecraft that safely and successfully landed on Mars — get its name?

The US space agency got help from students, according to a Filipino-American engineer who has been working for the red planet mission project.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Friday, Gregorio Villar III, an Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) systems engineer for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, said the agency held a contest for elementary students to name the rover.

“Students from around the world submitted essays proposing a name, and why they think that should be the name of the next Mars mission,” Villar told The Source.

Villar explained that “Perseverance” was chosen due to its fitting name— especially with the world grappling with the current coronavirus crisis.

“Perseverance – it was such a fitting name especially during the pandemic where we all persevered to get this rover off of Earth and land it safely on Mars,” he added.

After a 292.5 million-mile journey from Earth, NASA’s Perseverance rover “flawlessly” landed on Mars last week in what experts and scientists labeled as a pivotal moment for the agency and space exploration. The Mars 2020 mission seeks to look for signs of potential life and collect samples of broken rock and soil.

Villar, who has been working for the space agency for over a decade now, said it was personally a “surreal” experience for him to see an actual rocket launch from Earth to the red planet.

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He likewise underscored the importance of the recent photos and clips sent back to the agency headquarters.

“I’ve been working on this landing system for eight years and these videos, it can go underappreciated,” the engineer said.

“We’ve never seen any footage like this ever in history… So it’s really hard to tell you how big these videos and images are of the landing.”