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Fourth-grader Abhinav Rai was named a semifinalist in the NASA Mars 2020 “Name the Rover” essay competition. Rai attends R.L. Stevenson Elementary School in Fridley. (Photo courtesy of Fridley Public Schools)

R.L. Stevenson Elementary School fourth-grader Abhinav Rai was named the Minnesota semifinalist in NASA’s Mars 2020 “Name the Rover” essay competition.

Open to K-12 students across the United States, the competition received more than 28,000 entries.

Abhinav’s essay, titled “Humanity,” finished as a semifinalist in the K-4 division, representing the state of Minnesota in the nationwide contest to name NASA’s next Mars rover.

As each Mars rover has a unique mission, Abhinav put many layers of thought into his essay. According to Abhinav, the meaning behind the name “Humanity” is a symbol of the cumulative human effort that has gone into all Mars exploration missions thus far.

“It’s a message of human love and friendliness to Mars,” Abhinav wrote in his essay. “Human nature and culture have always been fascinated by objects in the sky, and ‘Humanity’ symbolizes all of the human race’s fascination with Mars.”

It was also important to Abhinav to send a message of peace. He wrote in his essay, “In today’s world, this name gives a message of love, compassion, kindness and all things good about the human race.”

Through his research process, Abhinav said he learned a lot about past Mars exploration rover missions, particularly about Opportunity and Spirit.

In 2004 these rovers found evidence of past existence of water on Mars.

The upcoming Mars rover expedition is set to launch in July 2020 and will address key questions about potential life on the Red Planet. Equipped with a drill to collect samples of rocks and soil, this robot will be searching for signs of past microbial life.

The potential findings of this mission are exciting to Abhinav.

“Hopefully, it will give us clues and set us up for future travel and human settlement on Mars,” he wrote.

A student with early aspirations, Abhinav is determined to pursue engineering in the future.

“I really hope to travel to Mars one day,” he wrote. “And I hope to someday help create the spacecraft that we will be traveling on.”

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