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Gay Yee-Hill: Throughout the evening you may hear this mission referred to as MSL, short for the Mars Science Laboratory. Now that's the original name of the entire mission that includes the rover, its science lab and the spacecraft that's carrying the rover. The rover's name now is Curiosity and the name is a winning entry in a national naming contest and it was submitted by a then 12-year-old 6th-grader Clara Ma from Kansas. And Clara joins us now and she's much bigger, she's taller than me now. But welcome.
First let's talk about how you came up with the name Curiosity.
Clara Ma: I think I first thought of the name Curiosity when I was reading about it in a Time for Kids magazine and Curiosity was the first thing that popped into my head. And I had no idea why and I didn't really think about it much beforehand, but afterward I thought about it so much and what the Curiosity really means to me and how I really believe 100 percent of the things that I wrote in my essay and how it's really human nature to always wonder what's out there, what's beyond this world and this planet. And as a 6th-grader, I thought how cool would it be for a rover going to Mars to carry a name that embodies such an important part of who we are, a name that aspires to learn and ask questions.
Gay: You're absolutely right. It is the perfect name and this whole experience since naming the rover, what has that been like? We have footage of you coming here to JPL when you were 12 and seeing the rover and seeing it in the Mars yard. And we can roll that footage. What has this experience been like for you?
Clara: This experience has been absolutely life-changing. I mean I wrote the essay when I was actually 11 so it's been almost four years now and I've kind of grown up with it. Just getting to meet all these amazing people, these scientists and engineers, they just, they inspire me so much. And this experience has really changed the person that I am and the person that I want to become.
Gay: So last question: Reflecting over all of this, what will you carry the most with you?
Clara: Just the words of the people that I've met here at JPL and at NASA. They are so amazing, so successful and intelligent. But what amazes me most about them is how hard they work and how dedicated they are to what they do. And seeing them do what they do, it makes me believe that I can someday accomplish what I want to do however impossible it may be. I mean just take a look at Curiosity's landing tonight, seven minutes of terror. It seems pretty crazy.
Gay: Well you're on your way and you can reach beyond the stars in your career. Thank you for joining us.