The winner of the contest to name NASA’s Curiosity rover in 2009 was Clara Ma. She was a 12-year-old sixth-grader in a Kansas City suburb in 2008 when she read a magazine article about NASA’s essay contest to name the next Mars rover.
Ma knew precisely which name to propose, according to NASA: “Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives,” she wrote in her short essay. “We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder.”
Ma won the contest; the rover Curiosity launched in 2011 and is hard at work today looking into whether ancient Mars ever had the right environmental conditions to support life.
Ma graduated earlier this year (2019) with a degree in geophysics from Yale University.
Clara Ma, winner of the contest to name NASA’s Curiosity rover, in 2009 with an engineering model of the rover (left) and as a graduate student in 2019 (right)