In a few months the U.S. is sending its fifth rover to Mars, studying space and the possibility of someday sending travelers there.

But this next mission will be watched closely by a local high-schooler who loves science and space, and is also an important part of this next mission.

Vaneeza Rupani is a 17-year-old upcoming senior at Tuscaloosa County High School.

“I was reading headlines on the NASA website ’cause I’m nerdy and that’s what I like to do for fun,” she said. “I saw that there was an essay contest to name the rover and I thought it would be fun to sign up for it. So I gave it a try.”

Vaneeza’s submission was “Ingenuity.” NASA wound up choosing “Perseverance,” which was submitted by a student in Virginia, but they liked Ingenuity so much they called Vaneeza and told her they’d like to use it for the first helicopter traveling to Mars.

“We were only allowed one submission so I picked ‘Ingenuity,’ ” she said. “I came up with it ’cause I was trying to pick one quality that said, ‘all right, what’s the one trait that people have that encompasses the creativity and intelligence that it takes to do science on other planets.’ ”

The helicopter will be attached to the rover, and if they can get the propellers to spin fast enough, Ingenuity will fly over the Mars surface.

Vaneez, her mom and dad and sister have all been invited to the rover’s launch in late July. As you’d imagine, Vaneez’s parents are excited and proud.

“I’ll be watching the whole launch and everything,” said father Jay Rupani. “When it lands, I’m pretty sure they’re going to show the video of landing and everything, so I’ll be there.”

Perseverance is scheduled to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021. Days later, Ingenuity will fly within the thin atmosphere of Mars.

Categories: Local News, Spirit of Alabama