MILLBURN, NJ — For Millburn High School Junior Eli Nadell, the sky is the limit. After all, that's where Nadell hopes to potentially see a rover with his naming suggestion in 2020.
Nadell is one of 155 students across the U.S. who were chosen as semifinalists in the "Name the Rover" essay contest. Just one winner will be selected to win the grand prize. They will have the honor of naming the rover and an invitation to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Nadell had his naming suggestion, "Novus" selected as the New Jersey representative in the high school category. The name translates to "New" in English.
Once on Mars, the as-of-yet unnamed rover will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet's climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
Nadell said that the opportunity arose for him organically, and that he entered without even knowing if he would win.
"At school, we have a space exploration class taught by Mr. Yi," Nadell said. "This year, he presented a very unique opportunity, and that was to name the rover that's going to go to Mars in 2020. So everybody in class entered, and i didn't hear about it for about a month, and then I get an email saying 'you're named a semifinalist.' I'm very excited."
"When I was coming up with names, I didn't think about it too hard," Nadell said. "But I knew I wanted to do something that represented the mission well."
In an email interview, Nadell's teacher, John Yi explained how into space and space exploration he is.
"We talked about NASA's upcoming Mars 2020 Rover in my Space Exploration classes, and I was excited to have my students enter the "Name the Rover" contest," Yi said. "I'm not at all surprised that Eli was chosen as a semifinalist. I remember thinking that his proposed rover name ("Novus") was original and particularly appropriate given the mission objectives of the rover.
"Furthermore, his essay eloquently captures the significance of the rover in the context of why we explore space and the role of NASA. Eli is so passionate and enthusiastic about all things space."
Yi also noted that when Nadell heard there was an advanced space exploration club run by him for students who had already taken his class, he jumped in right away.
As for Nadell, he just wants to enjoy the ride, and is happy to do so while he waits for results.
"I don't want to count all my eggs before they hatch, but it's definitely exciting," Nadell said."Mr. Yi's very excited for me, my parents are very excited. So it's a cool opportunity and something that I'll never get to do again, considering my age and where NASA's at with space exploration. So it's definitely exciting. I'm excited to see where it takes me."