Scientists are on track to land the six-wheeled robot on Mars by 2021. The only problem is they still don’t have a name for it.
That’s why the UK Space Agency is asking people around the world to submit names for the rover, which in the meantime is being called the ExoMars. The machine — currently being built in a U.K. airbus factory — will scan the red planet for signs of microbial life and even dig into its soil to look for space bugs.
“I often get asked, ‘Is there life out there beyond Earth?’ It’s a very fundamental question, and it’s one that this rover is going to try to answer,” astronaut Tim Peake told BBC News.
Already, a satellite is in orbit and picking up information about the planet’s atmosphere. The rover will be launched into space in 2020 using Russia’s Roscosmos Proton launcher. It’s then expected to land sometime in the spring of 2021.
There has been a lot of buzz about Mars in recent years, with NASA working hard to blast humans there by the 2030s. Aside from a search for extraterrestrial life, space scientists and futurists around the world are looking into possibilities of colonizing the planet — or at least using it to learn more about Earth. Mars is thought to have 38% of Earth’s gravity, meaning that humans might be able to adapt to its environment, according to Mars One, a private Dutch organization. Its day and night cycles are also similar to those humans are used to — a day in Mars is roughly 24 hours and 40 minutes — and its atmosphere provides some protection from the sun’s radiation.
It’s not exactly a perfect environment, but some believe that home is what you make of it. More than 200,000 people have so far signed up for citizenship of a prospective space nation called Asgardia, which would potentially inhabit Mars ... so long as all the science and legalities check out.
One thing is for sure: Whoever successfully names the ExoMars rover will make their mark on history. They’ll also get a free tour of the airbus factory responsible for assembling the rover, albeit less exciting.
Those with ideas can fill out a form that asks for their full name, country of residence, age, email address and — most importantly — their idea (it better be cooler than ExoMars). Entrants must also explain why they chose that name. Once submitted, the fate of their idea will be left to a group of experts with the final say.