PASADENA, Calif. (CBS/KCBS) -- NASA's Mars rover touched down on the red planet, with its mission to search for signs of life. A young scientist from Pasadena won a contest and was able to name the rover "Curiosity."
For the past eight months, scientists have been anxiously watching Curiosity barrel closer and closer to the red planet. Were you ever curious how the Mars landing rover got its name? We were.
Rachel Kim, found the person who named the $2.5 billion project and one-ton roving lab, and it was someone most unlikely. "I'm 15 and I'll be a sophomore," says Clara Ma.
Yup. Her. Ma, from Kansas, tells Kim as a 6th grader sitting in science class, she loved to ask questions. You could say she was always a bit curious. She says, "I saw an article about the Mars Rover and how you can name it and how the girl who named the two Mars Rovers before me, she had entered a contest and won. And I thought that would be an amazing thing for me to try and do."
Until 2009, the rover was just known as Mars Science Laboratory. More than 9,000 students from around the country entered the contest. Ma says, "I feel so proud that I named the Rover and they chose my name."
After Ma was selected winner in 2009, she came to JPL to see how and where Curiosity was built. She got to even sign her name on the machine as it was being assembled.
While other kids might dream of their names being up in lights, Ma's name will be rolling around on Mars. How's that for star-struck! It's been three years since she named Curiosity. Maybe she's just coming back to Earth. "Just getting to be there for the whole process was amazing, mind-blowing."
She's anticipating smooth sailing but acknowledges she will be a bit nervous. "But I'll also be really excited at the same time. I hope everything goes well, I really, really do. I'll just be on the edge of my seat."
Ma will return to Kansas soon. But she's saying so long to JPL, not goodbye. She smiles, "I'd love to work at JPL some day."