New Delhi: US space agency NASA has officially named its rover for the July 2020 mission to Mars as`Preservance.’ The name was selected after a ‘Name the Rover’ essay contest was held, with over 28,000 entries being received from all across the US. The winning entry came from a seventh-standard student from Virginia, Alexander Mather, who will now be invited to watch the spacecraft launch from NASA’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in July. Also Read - NASA Curiosity rover analysing Mars rocks again

Notably, the mission will be launched on July 17 and is expected to land on the surface of the ‘Red Planet’ on February 18, 2021. Also Read - NASA Curiosity rover drilling Mars rocks again

Speaking to media after his entry was announced as the winner, he said, “The rover will help pave the way for the human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusing the challenge was not an option.” Meanwhile, Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, while announcing the winning entry, said, “We can’t wait to see Preservance nameplate on Mars.” Also Read - NASA Curiosity rover finds diverse minerals in Mars rocks

‘Preservance’ will be NASA’s latest mission to Mars after Curiosity, which was launched on November 26, 2011, and landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. Other Mars rovers, too, have been named by school children, including 1997’s ‘Soujourner’ and ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’ (both launched in 2003 and landed in 2004).

Among its key features, ‘Preservance’ is a ‘robotic scientist’ and weighs just under 1,050 kilograms. It will, among other things, hunt for signs of past microbial life on Mars and collect samples of Martian rocks and dust. A possible future mission by the space agency might see these samples being brought to earth.