Chinese-American girl named Mars rover

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:11pm


Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory's rover which landed on Mars on Monday, owes its name to a Chinese-American girl who lives in Kansas.

Clara Ma thought up the name chosen by the Nasa panel from more than 9,000 entries received in a nationwide contest held in May 2009.

'Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day,' Ma, then 12 years old, wrote in her winning essay, now published on Nasa's official website.

'Curiosity is such a powerful force... [It] is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.'

Mark Dahl, the mission's programme executive, said the panel chose the name because it 'recognises something that is universally human and essential to science.'

For years, Ma has been passionate about space and science. Both her parents graduated from the Department of Automation at Tsinghua University in Beijing. They moved to the United States in the mid-1990s and are engineers at Garmin, the maker of GPS navigation equipment headquartered in Kansas City.

Ma's father has been quoted in US media as saying she is more mature than her age suggests, and that she loves reading journals such as National Geographic and Time. She read about the naming contest in the weekly magazine's special column for children, 'Time for Kids'.

Ma, now 15, was invited to be a special guest at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California before the rover was launched in November. Her parents and younger sister accompanied her. There, she signed her name (both in English and Chinese) inside the rover.