NASA’s landing of the new Mars Rover ‘Perseverance’ is exciting for everyone, but has a special meaning to the Fairfax Community, and one Lake Braddock Secondary School student, Alexander Mather, in particular. 

When Mather heard about NASA’s naming contest, he saw an opportunity to “help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again.”

In a public outreach effort undertaken by NASA, Battelle of Columbus Ohio, and Future Engineers of Burbank, California, students were encouraged to send in essays explaining their idea for the rover’s name. 

Mather decided on ‘Perseverance’, which came to him one day, and reflects how he feels about humanity.

In his prize-winning essay, he stated “[A]ll of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious, and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”

Last March, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen came to Fairfax to attend a celebration at Lake Braddock Secondary School to announce Alex’s entry’s selection.

“Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration. Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it’s going to make amazing discoveries. It’s already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today - processing for launch. Alex and his classmates are...going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to mars. That inspiring work will always require perseverance.”

Said Superintendent Scott Braband, ““This school is planting the seed in you. This school will have a lasting presence in space.”

When the rover launched in July, Alex and his family were provided with a trip to see the launch by Amazon Web Services. 

The Mars 2020 mission, carried out both by Perseverance and small robotic helicopter Ingenuity, is aimed at finding evidence of ancient life and studying Mars’ climate. It’s two year mission began when it landed on Mars on February 18.

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