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Oak Ridge Student Semi-Finalist in Contest to Name Mars Space Rover

Mia Cybulski likes swimming, tennis and gymnastics. The 9-year-old Palos Hills' girl also dabbles in writing.

She recently learned that she is a semi-finalist in the "Name the Rover" essay contest to name the 2020 Mars space rover. More than 28,000 kindergarten through high school students wrote and submitted essays.

Mia, a fourth-grader at Oak Ridge School, came up with the name "Wonder," saying she selected the name because it "expresses human curiosity and fascination" about the Red Planet.

"I feel excited and happy that my name is being considered," she said. "My parents are really proud of me."

Mia said it took her two days to come up with the name "Wonder." "I was looking for something that wasn't a really long name," she said. "I also think "Wonder" is a feeling that comes from something unexpected and is how NASA scientists might feel when the rover goes further into Mars."

The currently unnamed rover is a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds. It 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.

The next phase of judging will reduce the number of finalists to nine, who will talk to a panel of experts, including an astronaut and rover driver.

The winner will receive a trip to Florida to watch the spacecraft launch in July from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

 Mia Cybulski