McKenna Corso, a 7th-grade student at Marlowe Middle School, is a semifinalist in NASA’s “Name the Rover” Contest, in which students throughout the country have submitted names for the space agency’s next Mars rover.

The Mars 2020 rover will seek signs of past microbial life, collect surface samples as the first leg of a potential Mars Sample Return campaign, and test technologies to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere to prepare for future human missions.

Corso’s suggestion of “Maria” has been selected as a semifinalist among students in grades 5-8. Her entry represents Illinois in the national contest.

Along with the name, students submitted a brief essay in support of their suggestion. Corso’s essay states that she selected the name “Maria” in honor of Maria Mitchell, a pioneering 19th-century female astronomer.

“She believed in learning by doing, and the ability of women to achieve what their male peers could,” the essay reads.

The full essay can be found at, alongside the entries of other students throughout the country. Information on the contest can be found in the video below.

In January 2020, the public will have an opportunity to vote on the nine finalist names online as an additional part of the final selection process. NASA plans to announce the selected rover name on Feb. 18, 2020, exactly one year before the rover will land on the surface of Mars.

The winner will not only name the rover but also receive a family trip to the launch of the rover.