6th grader names a Mars rover

Curiosity can take you far – especially when you’re a kid from Kansas who recognizes that quality is as important to space exploration as rocket fuel. KPCC’s Cheryl Devall has more on the sixth grader whose essay propelled her to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena today.

More than 9,000 people aged 5 to 18 submitted entries to a NASA contest. In her winning essay, 12-year-old Clara Ma of Lenexa, Kansas named the space agency’s next Mars rover “Curiosity.”

That, she wrote, is what gets her out of bed, wondering what surprises life will throw at her. “Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives,” she wrote. “We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.”

Clara Ma says she’d been interested in space for a long time. But until this trip, she’d only thought she could read about it in books or study it by looking at the night sky. Walt Disney Company helped to sponsor her visit.

To top off her tour of the Jet Propulsion Lab, the contest winner was able to sign her name directly onto the rover during assembly. In about a year and a half, Curiosity’s scheduled to travel toward the red planet for a study of microbial life and traces of water.

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