NASA wants your vote on what to name its SUV-sized Mars Science Laboratory that remains parked on Earth until 2011 -- but Stephen Colbert won't get the chance to add this piece of space hardware as a new namesake.
Voters can rank their favorites among nine official rover names suggested by students from all across the United States, including Adventure, Amelia, Curiosity, Journey, Perception, Pursuit, Sunrise, Vision and Wonder. Unlike a recent online NASA naming contest, no write-in option exists. The poll opened on Monday and remains open until Sunday, March 29.
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) had its launch date pushed back from 2009, with a growing price tag that has reached $2.2 billion. Some NASA researchers have even begun reassessing goals for MSL and other Mars missions.
The mega-rover still packs some hefty instrument suites which may allow it to detect chemical signs of life. The MSL mission also boasts a "Sky Crane" system that combines parachutes with thrusters to lower its wheeled package safely to the Martian surface.
In any case, Mars enthusiasts need not fret during the wait -- a delayed mission sits a long ways from a failed mission. And like the Phoenix Mars Lander, MSL will Twitter away between sampling runs to keep netizens updated.
NASA only recently closed another online naming contest for a Node 3 module that will go up to the International Space Station. An option for write-in name suggestions inspired comedian Stephen Colbert to urge viewers of "The Colbert Report" to make the space module his namesake.
That resulted in"Colbert" winning the online vote, despite the efforts of Popsci.com to promote the name "Serenity" from the cult sci-fi show "Firefly." And now there are rumblings that NASA may name its new space station toilet after Colbert -- say what?
Those disappointed in the lack of a write-in option for the rover at least have more choices than NASA has offered previously. I personally find the name "Amelia" intriguing -- do you think that people will go for a less gender-neutral choice? Or will the red planet rover lean more WALL-E rather than EVE in its name?
Cast your vote at NASA's MSL site.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.