Mars Science Lab gets a name

By Phil Plait | May 27, 2009 10:00 am

The Mars Science Laboratory

The Mars Science Laboratory is an ambitious probe going to Mars in 2011. It’s larger, more complex, and will do broader science than any other spacecraft ever sent to the Red Planet.

And now it has a name! NASA held a contest to find a name for MSL, and sixth grader Clara Ma’s essay convinced them to give it the name Curiosity:

Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone’s mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn’t be who we are today. […] Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder. Sure, there are many risks and dangers, but despite that, we still continue to wonder and dream and create and hope. We have discovered so much about the world, but still so little. We will never know everything there is to know, but with our burning curiosity, we have learned so much.

Hmmm, sounds like Clara has a good career ahead of her as a science blogger.

I approve of this name (barring the fact that I cannot seem to type it correctly on my first attempt no matter how hard I try). While it may sound a little awkward at first, so did Spirit and Opportunity, and those names eventually settled in to fit the two rovers on Mars. Curiosity is a name that nestles in with the others, and of course does perfectly represent why we’re doing this in the first place.

It’s nice to know there are young folks out there with the same passion I had when I was their age. Passion and curiosity will be what propel us to the stars, and it will be people like Clara who take us there.


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