NASA has announced the finalists for its Mars 2020 Rover naming and the options are as worthy as one might expect.
Around 28,000 essays were apparently submitted, from which bigwigs whittled down these nine: Promise, Fortitude, Courage, Vision, Tenacity, Clarity, Endurance, Ingenuity and Perseverance.
Because we are El Reg, we are duty-bound to mourn the absence of Rover McRoverFace and could think of a few additional sobriquets ("KillBot 2000" has been mentioned, as have several that would doubtless trip an obscenity filter or two.)
There is hope, however. There is no guarantee that any of the nine will end up being slapped on the trundlebot, with the results of the poll being a mere "consideration" in NASA's final naming.
ESA selected the name of DNA researcher Rosalind Franklin to adorn its driller thriller (due for launch in the coming months if those pesky parachutes can be made to work) but we can't help missing the more freewheeling times of the early days of the space programme.
Astronaut Gus Grissom memorably named his spacecraft, Gemini 3, "Molly Brown" after the show The Unsinkable Molly Brown in a sly reference to his early Mercury capsule, which sank. Stroppy members of NASA's Public Affairs Office understandably objected to this, only to be made even less happy by the suggested alternative: Titanic.
Officials put a stop to spacecraft nicknames after that, although crews managed to slip the odd thing past those in charge. Gemini 5 enjoyed a covered wagon for its insignia, emblazoned with the words "8 Days or Bust" to indicate the pioneering nature of the mission and that it had to last eight days in order to demonstrate the longevity of the fuel cells ahead of longer jaunts. Officials agreed, but had a piece of material sewn over the offending slogan should the mission have to end prematurely.
Early Apollo 'nauts also got to assign nicknames to their two-part spacecraft, such as "Gumdrop" and "Spider" for the command and lunar modules of Apollo 9. By the time "Charlie Brown" and "Snoopy" were selected for Apollo 10, we suspect NASA bigwigs had had quite enough.
Still, it is undeniable that non-glib names can take on meanings of their own. "Voyager" seems a far better name for the mission than "Mariner-Jupiter-Saturn" and the "death" of Opportunity seems far more poignant than MER-B finally failing to respond following a particularly impressive dust storm.
Anyone can head over to NASA's site and click to vote for a given name, or you could use the comments below for your own suggestion. ®
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