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Tuscaloosa County girl gets chance to name new Mars helicopter

NASA announced that an Alabama high school student, Vaneeza Rupani, has named their new Mars helicopter “Ingenuity” in the NASA name the rover contest.

“I am proud that NASA’s Mars Helicopter will be named by Vaneeza Rupani of Northport, Alabama,” said U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), “This is a unique privilege. Ms. Rupani’s essay on why she chose the name ‘Ingenuity’ highlights her creativity, originality, and intelligence. Her grasp on the importance of exploration is extraordinary, and I am confident that she has a bright future ahead. Congratulations to Ms. Rupani on being selected for this prestigious honor.”

Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said, “NASA has selected Vaneeza Rupani, a Junior at Tuscaloosa County High School, to name the Mars Helicopter. She has called it “Ingenuity”, a great tribute to what Vaneeza says is the “brilliance of people working hard to overcome the challenges of interplanetary travel”. Next year, when Ingenuity heads to Mars and makes history becoming the first aircraft to attempt flight from another planet, Alabama will be traveling with it, and we can thank Vaneeza Rupani for that. Congratulations, Vaneeza!”

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones said, “Congratulations to Vaneeza Rupani of Northport; you have made Alabama proud. The Name the Rover project is a creative outreach opportunity aimed to gain students’ interest in aerospace. Community outreach initiatives like these are important because they help young people understand the United States’ role in the current space race and introduce them to potential career fields. In a few years, the participants may become the engineers working on rockets and fueling the aerospace industry.”

Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt powered flight on another planet.

“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. “Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things, and it allows us to expand our horizons to the edges of the universe.”

Rupani’s was chosen out of 28,000 essays submitted to NASA by K-12 students from every U.S. state and territory recommending names for the next Mars rover. In March, the agency announced that seventh-grader Alexander Mather’s essay earned him the honor of naming the rover Perseverance. Rupani got to pick the name for the helicopter that will land with Perseverance.

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Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, made the choice for the rover’s name, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine chose the name for the helicopter.

“Ingenuity encapsulates the values that our helicopter tech demo will showcase for everyone when it takes off next year as the first aircraft on another planet’s surface,” said Bridenstine. “It took a lot of hard and ingenious work to get the helicopter ready and then placed on the rover, and there’s a lot more going to be required. I was happy we had another great name from the naming contest finalists from which I was able to select something so representative of this exciting part of our next mission to Mars.”

As a technology demonstration, Ingenuity is a high-risk, high-reward experiment. The helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which is preparing for launch in July or August.

The Ingenuity is a 4-pound solar-powered helicopter built from a combination of specially designed components and off-the-shelf parts.

JPL is building and will manage operations of Perseverance and Ingenuity for the agency. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy, is responsible for launch management. Lockheed Martin Space in Boulder, Colorado, provided the Mars Helicopter Delivery System. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of Mars in the 2030s.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.



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