Press Release

Girl with Dreams Names Mars Rovers ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’

By SpaceRef Editor
June 8, 2003
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Girl with Dreams Names Mars Rovers ‘Spirit’ and ‘Opportunity’

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

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.

Information about the rovers and the scientific instruments they carry
is available online from JPL at and from
Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., at . Information about the naming contest is
available at .

SpaceRef staff editor.