Caroline Smith reaches semi-finals in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest

mars rover caroline

By Alina Issakhanian

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced the Mars 2020 “Name the Rover” contest in 2019, in which students could submit a name that could become the future name of the 2020 Mars rover. 

Senior Caroline Smith made it to the semi-finals. The name she chose was “Calafia,” after the queen of the Amazons from the 16th century Spanish novel “Las sergas de Esplandián” written by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.

“When I first started, I wanted to name it after something in mythology, Mars being a patron god, and something about the relationship between space and mythology. My dad told me about this novel where Calafia is the queen and spirit of the Amazons and lives on the island of California. Coincidentally, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is in California, and in the novel, Calafia is leaving California and meeting her patron god,” Smith said. 

The “Name the Rover” contest called for US students from kindergarten through twelfth grade to submit a name. 

Individual students were required to submit their idea of a name for the 2020 Mars Rover along with a 150-word essay. The essay would then be judged on both originality and how fitting the name was for the rover.

When Smith came up with a name for the rover, she quickly wrote down how she was going to connect the name Calafia to space and specifically to the Mars rover. Her love for writing definitely helped her in creating the short essay. 

The essay can be found on the NASA “Name the Rover” contest site.

Smith first heard about this as a scholarship from the College and Career Office’s Weekly Newsletter and thought it was something she could easily do, considering her passion for space.   

“I thought it would be very metaphorical and the novel lines up well. It was a fun way to connect it all,” Smith said.  

Although Smith does not want to pursue a career in aerospace or astronomy in the future, she hopes to write about new discoveries of the future and continue her passion for the world outside of our small planet.

“When first hearing about my name reaching semi-finals, I thought how surreal it would be to name the Mars rover and have it outlive me in history,” said Smith. 

Reiterating advice from Smith, if you see an opportunity, in this case, naming the 2020 Mars rover, take it, because you never know how far it can take you. 

The winning name of the rover will be announced in March. 

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