Mars rovers named 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity'
Posted: June 8, 2003

Sofi Collis unveils the Mars Exploration Rover names with NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and Brad Justus, LEGO senior vice president. Photo: NASA
Twin robotic geologists NASA is sending to Mars will embody in their newly chosen names -- Spirit and Opportunity -- two cherished attributes that guide humans to explore.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and 9-year-old Sofi Collis, who wrote the winning essay in a naming contest, unveiled the names this morning at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. "Now, thanks to Sofi Collis, our third grade explorer-to-be from Scottsdale, Ariz., we have names for the rovers that are extremely worthy of the bold mission they are about to undertake," O'Keefe said.

Sofi read her essay: "I used to live in an orphanage. It was dark and cold and lonely. At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the 'Spirit' and the 'Opportunity.'"

Hers was selected from nearly 10,000 entries in the contest sponsored by NASA and the LEGO Co., a Denmark-based toymaker, with collaboration from the Planetary Society, Pasadena, Calif..

Collis was born in Siberia. At age two, she was adopted by Laurie Collis and brought to the United States. "She has in her heritage and upbringing the soul of two great spacefaring countries," O'Keefe said. "One of NASA's goals is to inspire the next generation of explorers. Sofi is a wonderful example of how that next generation also inspires us."

Collis' dream of flying now takes the form of wanting to become an astronaut. Meanwhile, she enjoys playing with her older sister, swimming, reading Harry Potter stories, and her family's three dogs and one cat.

LEGO President Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, commenting on the naming contest, said, "The early days of space exploration stimulated the creativity of an entire generation, expanded our imagination and encouraged us to push our limits, making us better and braver human beings. With this project, the LEGO Co. wants to bring part of that magic back. Everything we do is aimed at giving children that same power to create, and by involving children in the Name the Rovers Contest and other related playful learning activities, we hope to motivate and inspire the next generation of explorers."

Eleven miles from today's naming ceremony, Spirit, formerly called Mars Exploration Rover A, waited for a launch opportunity on Monday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Opportunity, the second twin in what is still named the Mars Exploration Rover project, is being prepared for its first launch opportunity on June 25.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Exploration Rover project for the NASA Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

Flight Data File
Vehicle: Delta 2 (7925)
Payload: NASA's Mars Exploration Rover-A
Launch date: June 10, 2003
Launch time: 1:58:47 p.m. EDT (1758:47 GMT)
Launch site: SLC-17A, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite broadcast: AMC 2, Transponder 9, C-band

Pre-launch briefing

Mission preview - Our story examining the Mars Exploration Rover project.

Launch windows - A chart listing the daily launch times for MER-A.

Launch timeline No. 1 - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch if the first daily opportunity is used.

Launch timeline No. 2 - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch if the second daily opportunity is used.

Launch hazard area - A map of the restricted area during liftoff.

Ground track - See the trajectory the rocket will follow during its flight.

Getting to Mars - Our story previewing the rovers' descent and landing to the Martian surface.

MER spacecraft - A technical look at the parts and pieces of the Mars Exploration Rover spacecraft.

Mission science - A look at the science instruments and objectives for the Mars rovers.

Future exploration - Our story looking at NASA's plans for Mars missions through the decade.

Delta 2 rocket - Overview of the Delta 2 Heavy-model rocket used in this launch.

SLC-17 - The launch complex where Delta rockets fly from Cape Canaveral.

Delta directory - See our coverage of previous Delta rocket flights.




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