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Q&A with the Student Who Named Ingenuity, NASA’s Mars Helicopter

Vaneeza Rupani

Vaneeza Rupani, an 11th grader at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport, Alabama, is the person behind the Mars Helicopter’s new name. Chosen by NASA from the finalists for the agency’s “Name the Rover” contest for the Mars 2020 mission, Ingenuity is an apt description for the history-making spacecraft, which launches with NASA’s Perseverance rover this summer. Here, we ask Rupani what it’s like to be part of a pioneering experiment.  

What was going through your head when you heard that the name you submitted for the rover would be used for the helicopter instead?

I was very, very excited. To have a name I suggested used in any capacity is amazing. This helicopter is an incredible project, and I am thrilled to have a part in its journey.

Why do you think “Ingenuity” would be a good name for the helicopter?

Ingenuity would be a good name for the helicopter because that is exactly what it took to design this machine. The challenges faced trying to design something capable of flight on another planet can only be overcome with collaboration and creativity. It takes the ingenuity of an incredible group of people to create something with so many complex challenges.

What excites you most about the Mars Helicopter?

The fact that it will be the first craft to fly in a controlled way on another planet is super-exciting. Proving this is possible will open up multitudes of opportunities in space exploration. This milestone of adding an aerial element to the exploration of other worlds is extremely exciting!

Why do you think space exploration is important?

Space exploration is important because it gives us important insight into the history of planets. It tells us how different environments have changed over time and how they have reacted to different events. This information can then be used to protect Earth from any environmental dangers it may face, making space exploration extremely important to Earth’s health and survival.

Bonus question for Vaneeza’s mom, Nausheen Rupani: What’s an interesting story you can share about your daughter that’s related to space?

Vaneeza had an interest in space science since her Montessori years. On their way to school every day, she and her dad would pretend they were in a spaceship. They would imagine seeing planets (buildings), stars (traffic lights), etc. on their way and give them names.

Space and the science of engineering that answers our questions about it have always fascinated Vaneeza since she learned to express herself. The tradition continues … every night, we have a “fact of the day” session, where she shares new information she has learned.

We are immensely proud of Vaneeza and know she will make it big.

DC Agle / Jia-Rui Cook
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
818-3939-9011 / 818-354-0724 /

Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington