NASA 2020 Mars Rover to Be Named at Live Event Today: Watch Livestream

Today, NASA will unveil the name of its upcoming Mars 2020 rover, concluding a contest involving thousands of essay submissions from students across the country.

The announcement will be made during an event that will be broadcast live on NASA Television, with coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. EST on Thursday. The event will also be streamed live on Facebook, Ustream, YouTube, Twitter and the NASA website.

The naming contest began in August last year when the space agency challenged school students in primary and secondary education in the United States to submit a rover name and a short essay explaining their choice. In total, more than 28,000 names and essays were submitted.

Subsequently, nearly 4,700 volunteer judges helped select 155 finalists, based on factors including the appropriateness and significance of the name; originality of name; and the originality and quality of the essay.

From these 155 finalists, judges narrowed down the pool further to nine submissions—Perseverance, Vision, Clarity, Ingenuity, Fortitude, Courage, Promise, Tenacity and Endurance. NASA then put the names to the public, giving them a chance to vote for their favorite in an online poll.

After the poll closed, the nine finalists then had interviews with a panel including NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins and NASA mars rover driver Nick Wiltsie. Now, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, has made the final decision, and the winning student will appear at today's live event.

The prize winner will also be invited to view the launch of the spacecraft, which will take place in July or August this year from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. These months were chosen because Earth and Mars will be in good positions relative to each other at this time, meaning less power will be needed to reach the Red Planet. If everything goes to plan, the rover is scheduled to land on the planet's Jezero Crater in February 2021.

NASA 2020 Mars Rover
Artist's illustration of NASA's 2020 Mars rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover, which weighs more than 2,300 pounds, is currently being housed at the adjacent Kennedy Space Center, and final preparations are being made for the launch. The aim of the mission is to search for signs of past microbial life on Mars, while also investigating the planet's climate and geology. The rover will also test technologies which may benefit future human missions to Mars.

"These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources—such as subsurface water—improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars," according to NASA.

The 2020 rover mission forms an important part of NASA's long term space exploration plans, which involve returning humans to the moon by 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence there by 2028. The space agency says that these missions will pave the way for manned missions to Mars in the following decade.