The Face Behind the Name: FCPS Student Names Mars Rover

The Face Behind the Name: FCPS Student Names Mars Rover

By: Diana Prudius and Ayesha Gulzar

April 15, 2021

Do you believe in aliens? On February 18th NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, landed with a mission to discover and search for life on Mars. This very rover was named by Alexander Mather, an 8th grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School.

In an interview, Alex was asked about why he entered the contest and he said, “I’m very interested in space and I have been for a while, so the way I saw it was that this was going to be the closest I was going to get as a 13 year old, to contributing to NASA and that was really appealing to me.” He checks nasa.gov daily because of his passion for space exploration. One day, he came across an article calling students from around the nation to submit entries to name the 2020 Mars rover. “I, a NASA space nerd, did not see any reason to turn this down since potentially, this was a way I could contribute to NASA, so this was what I was going to do for the next two weeks.”  He didn’t think he would win, but thought it would be worth a shot. 

He got to work and researched potential name ideas. He noticed that past rovers (Curiosity, Spirit, Opportunity, Insight) were named after human qualities, so he decided to do the same.

“One thing I found out through my research was that Mars missions are incredibly hard, even for space exploration… so I wanted a name that encapsulated that and I feel like Perseverance worked the best.” 

After entering his essay explaining his name choice, it came time for the long wait until the announcement. The day of the announcement, he thought, “I didn’t think I won. Earlier that day, I remembered seeing a nasa.gov article saying that they would announce the winners the very next day. I thought to myself that if I had won, they would’ve told me by now.” It turns out that NASA had informed his parents about the victory, but they had just waited to tell him so that he would be surprised. “I was in the car and I was talking to my mom about what the name could be because the names in the finals were really good. Then, we get home and she says, ‘by the way Alex, you named a Mars rover.’ You can imagine that I was pretty surprised.”

One of the perks of winning was that he got to watch the launch in person. “The exhaust coming from the engine was far brighter than the sun, but I couldn’t look away. It starts going up faster and faster until the sound hits. The sound is so loud that you can feel the vibrations in your chest and all the bugs and birds for miles start going absolutely insane, car alarms go off, and the rocket goes further into the sky. After about 5 seconds, it’s so far up that we can barely see it anymore and then the engine cuts out and we can’t hear it. It’s been 9 seconds and it’s already in space.” After the launch, everything around the spaceport was quiet and all that was left was the sounds of the car alarms and the gasps of the people watching. 

Alex’s advice to Glasgow students is that, “Some things, I think you can legitimately put down to luck, but for the most part if you are trying to do something like win a part in theater or make first chair in a band, the person who works the hardest will be the one who gets it. So, if that’s you, it will probably bring a lot of success.” Goes to show that even a teen can win the opportunity of a lifetime, and with perseverance, you can too!