By Renae Reints
July 20, 2018

The European Space Agency (ESA) is sending a rover to Mars, and they want you to name it.

The six-wheeled robot, currently called ExoMars, is under construction at the Airbus factory in Stevenage, England. Once complete, it will head to our neighboring planet in 2020 to search for signs of past or present life. When it lands in 2021, the rover will explore the surface for evidence of microbial life. It even has a drill to expand this search up to 2 meters underground.

In the search for an inspiring name, astronaut Tim Peake has launched a campaign encouraging citizens of ESA member states (including associates, like Canada) to submit suggestions online at this Airbus website. A full explanation of eligibility qualifications can be found in the contest Terms and Conditions.

“I often get asked, ‘is there life out there beyond Earth?’ It’s a very fundamental question, and it’s one that this rover is going to try to answer,” Peake told BBC News.

Dr. David Parker, the director of human spaceflight and robotics at the European Space Agency, added that the ESA usually names their missions after famous scientists, but this time they might go for something more intangible, like the American Mars rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity.

“Perhaps this time we go with a name connected with the search for life – biology, genetics, DNA, whatever,” Parker told BBC. “Who knows? We just want a great name.”

The rover is the second part of Europe’s ExoMars project — the first is a satellite already orbiting the Red Planet, observing its atmosphere.

The name search, which Peake launched at the Farnborough International Air Show last Friday, will be open until 23:59 BST on Oct. 10, 2018. Once closed, a panel of UK Space Agency experts will read through submissions and select the winning name. The author of the winning entry will be awarded a tour of the Airbus factory where the rover is being built.

Contest rules state that names can be a single word, a short combination of words, or an acronym. The name cannot be the same as any past or current space mission. If it’s the name of a person, that person must have died before Oct. 10, 1993. Every submission must be accompanied by a short explanation of name choice, and choose your submission carefully, as every entrant only gets one.

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