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How did the Mars rover Curiosity get its name?

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The Mars rover Curiosity was named by Clara Ma, a sixth-grade student who won an essay contest sponsored by NASA and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Out of 9,000 entries, hers was the most impressive. Ma signed a plate on the rover before it was sent into space.

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The name Curiosity was Ma's first and only choice. Ma's thinking was that the rover was going to Mars to learn and that curiosity was a part of learning. As part of her prize, Ma won a trip to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the rover was being assembled.

Walt Disney Studios also sponsored the prizes for the 30 semi-finalists, which included items from the Disney-Pixar film "Wall-E." Nine of those finalists were picked to put a message on a microchip that would be attached to Curiosity. Thousands of electronic signatures, gathered on the Internet, also went on the chip for the ride to Mars.

The official NASA name is Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity. The rover launched on Nov. 26, 2011 and landed on the red planet on Aug. 5, 2012. Curiosity is five times larger than the previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. This latest robotic craft weighs in at 1,982 pounds. Its primary mission is to look for evidence of water and the elements needed to create life.

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