Mars Rover Named for Sojourner Truth
NASA has named its Mars Pathfinder rover after Sojourner Truth. The 25-pound, six-wheeled rover will be the first to explore Mars.
The name Sojourner was chosen for the Mars Pathfinder rover after a year-long, worldwide competition in which students up to 18 years old were invited to select a heroine and submit an essay about her historical accomplishments. The students were asked to address in their essays how a planetary rover named for their heroine would translate these accomplishments to the Martian environment.
Initiated in March 1994 by The Planetary Society of Pasadena, CA, in cooperation with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the contest got under way with an announcement in the January 1995 issue of the National Science Teachers Association’s magazine “Science and Children,” which is circulated to 20,000 teachers and schools across the nation.
Valerie Ambroise, 12, of Bridgeport, CT, submitted the winning essay about Sojourner Truth, an African-American reformist who lived during the Civil War era. An abolitionist and champion of women’s rights, Sojourner Truth, whose legal name was Isabella Van Wagener, made it her mission to “travel up and down the land,” advocating the rights of all people to be free and the rights of women to participate fully in society. The name Sojourner was selected because it means “traveler.” JPL scientists and engineers working on the Mars Pathfinder project and Planetary Society staff members reviewed the 3,500 total entries received from all over the world, including essays from students living in Canada, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Poland and Russia. Nearly 1,700 of the essays were submitted by students aged 5 to 18 years old.