UK Space Agency has announced a competition to name their next Mars rover that will search for signs of life on Mars. The launch is expected to happen in 2020 as part of the European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars mission.
The rover is built by UK's Airbus engineers for the ESA and according to a release put out by them, the ExoMars rover will be the first one to roam across Mars and drill down to find out if there is any life or evidence of life buried underground. Life, if it does exist on Mars, could be protected from the Sun's radiation and exist underground, notes the report. Recent reports of "complex organic molecules" as well as methane on the red planet point to possibilities of microbial life under the surface of ancient lakes and seas there.
ExoMars rover, once on Mars, will collect samples and analyse them with next-gen instruments, says the ESA, working as a fully fledged and automated laboratory on the red planet.
The rover naming competition was unveiled by Tim Peake, ESA astronaut, where he spoke of how Mars is a fascinating destination and 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 are asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the Martian surface."
After launch in 2020, the rover is expected to land on Mars by March 2021. It is a solar-powered unit that will keep warm at nights and through storms using special batteries and heating units. The ESA says that this rover will be the first one to be able to move across Mars as well as study it at depth. NASA's InSight lander that is on its way to Mars right now will be a stationary machine and peer deep into Mars, possibly to its core.
"The ExoMars missions are part of Europe's strategy to develop technology and explore around Earth, the Moon and Mars – to investigate and bring back knowledge and benefits to people on Earth. This competition is bound to inspire many across Europe and bring the Red Planet closer to home," said Parker.
Asking people in the UK to send in names for an important piece of scientific machinery did not as planned the last time around. In April 2016, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) was building a new research vessel and asked people to send in votes and suggestions and according to a report by the BBC, Boaty McBoatface was the winner with a massive 124,109 votes. The second most voted choice was the Poppy-Mai, only received 34,371 votes.
A spokesperson for NERC said on the occasion: "Thank you to everyone who has taken part in the Natural Environment Research Council's Name Our Ship campaign.
"We've had an extremely high volume of suggestions and will now review all of the suggested names."
The vessel was finally named RRS Sir David Attenborough.
Will a similar name be bestowed upon the ESA Rover? Rover McRoverface, maybe? Results of the competition will be announced on 10 October this year. You can also enter the competition and post whatever name you feel is best suited for the little rover.