Alabama student names NASA’s first Mars helicopter

NORTHPORT, ALABAMA (AP) — An Alabama high school student in the United States (US) named NASA’s first Mars helicopter that will be deployed to the Red Planet later this summer.

Ingenuity, the name submitted by Vaneera Rupani, was selected for the 1.8 kilogrammes solar-powered helicopter, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday. The name coined by the junior at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport was just one of the 28,000 names that were submitted during NASA’s ‘Name the Rover’ essay contest for K-12 students across the US.

“The ingenuity and brilliance of people working hard to overcome the challenges of interplanetary travel are what allow us all to experience the wonders of space exploration,” Rupani wrote in her essay. “Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things, and it allows us to expand our horizons to the edges of the universe.”

In March, the organisation selected the name ‘Perseverance’ for the Mars Rover based on a Virginian student’s essay, but decided to come back to the submitted essays to also pick a name for the helicopter that will accompany the Rover on the trip to the planet.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine then selected Rupani’s name for the helicopter, noting that the name “encapsulates the values that our helicopter tech demo will showcase” when it takes off to Mars. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby also congratulated Rupani for the honour.

“It was really cool I got to be a part of something like this,” she told the AP.