Mid-Prairie sophomore has shot at naming NASA’s new Mars rover

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NASA’s new Mars rover needs a name, and one submitted by a Mid-Prairie High School sophomore is in the running to be selected.

Last week, Lilou Beachy received word that she is one of 155 national semifinalists in the Name the Rover essay contest.

Beachy explained that the name she submitted, Vita Venator, is Latin for “life hunter.”

“For the contest, you had to give a name that encompasses what the rover looks like, what its purpose is and what its hoping to accomplish,” she said. “I was thinking that since they were looking on Mars for possibilities of life, then I wanted to do something about looking for life. I already knew that vita meant life in Latin.

“I started looking up Latin words for searcher and explorer. I found venator, which meant hunter. I thought that was perfect with the alliteration.”

Beachy’s submission came as a result of an assignment in Shawna Sieren’s environmental earth science class.

“The contest was only 150 words to submit, but she wanted an essay,” Beachy said. “I wrote a paper for her and turned it in. She told us previously that if we wanted to submit it to the contest, we could. I wrote the paper and turned it in to her.”

A couple weeks later, Sieren approached Beachy about entering the Name the Rover contest.

Beachy had to pare down her essay to under the 150-word limit for the contest.

“Nearing the deadline, I decided to just cut some whole parts out, and I made the deadline,” Beachy said.

When she received word last week that she had been selected as a semi-finalist, Beachy was surprised because she had “kind of forgotten” about the contest.

She came home and told her family about it.

“They were happy for me,” Beachy said. “My sister, Maëlys got right to work, and she made me a little diagram of a NASA rocket launch.”

Nine finalists will be announced this month.

The nine finalists will talk with a panel of experts, including the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division Lori Glaze, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA JPL rover driver Nick Wiltsie and Clara Ma, who proposed the name for the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, as a sixth-grade student in 2009. The grand prize winner will be announced in early March 2020.

The grand prize winner will travel to Cape Canaveral, Fla., in July for the launch of the newly-named rover.

“I think it would be so cool,” Beachy said about the possibility of winning. “Even if it didn’t find anything, my name would go down in history, and that would be really cool.”

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