The UK Space Agency is taking one giant leap for mankind by asking the general public, yes, the same people that came up with Boaty McBoatface, to name an incredibly complex piece of machinery that will explore the Mars surface.
Expected to launch in August 2020, the rover is a collaboration with the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission. The journey to the alien planet aims to investigate how Mars evolved and explore whether the planet could be colonised by humans in the future.
“The ExoMars rover will be the first of its kind to travel across the martian surface and drill down to determine if evidence of life is buried underground,” the ESA explains.
But even before the arduous journey to the Red Planet, creators of the rover – which has six independently steered wheels and a whole host of gadgets like camera systems and ground penetrating radar – could be facing their biggest challenge, the power of the people.
The UK Space Agency has begun a competition to name the robot that scientists are pinning their exploration hopes. It means the machine could get the same treatment as Boaty McBoatface – a British Antarctic Survey submarine that was officially named after the surprise outcome of public poll.
The poll was originally to name a British polar research ship, but after the ridiculous name won a landslide victory officials named the vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough. Hilariously, a submersible onboard the ship is instead titled Boaty McBoatface.
Launching the competition, British ESA astronaut Tim Peake described the opportunity as a chance for people to put their mark on a new era of space exploration. But depending on the outcome, it might also lead organisers to utter the famed NASA phrase: “Houston, we have a problem”.
“Mars is a fascinating destination, a place where humans will one day work alongside robots to gather new knowledge and search for life in our solar system,” Peake said.
“The ExoMars rover is a vital part of this journey of exploration and we’re asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the Martian surface.”
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