Ever since Vaneeza Rupani was a little girl, she has been captivated by space exploration. She fed her interest by reading books about space at her school library and visiting the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“The idea that there is an endless number of worlds out there waiting to be discovered is fascinating, and the idea that anything at all could be found is extremely exciting,” Vaneeza said.

While visiting NASA’s website, Vaneeza, now a junior student in high school, saw a headline about an essay contest to name the rover for the Mars 2020 mission. Fueled by her passion for space exploration, Vaneeza decided to enter the contest. She considered several ideas that fit the description she envisioned for the Rover, and ultimately landed on “Ingenuity.”

When asked what inspired her to choose “Ingenuity,” Vaneeza said she considered the name of the previous Mars rover, Curiosity, which answered the question of why we explore space. Vaneeza wanted a name that would answer the question of how.

“My goal was to highlight one quality that encapsulated the intelligence, creativity, and hard work it took to create these machines, and I thought ‘ingenuity’ captured all of that best,” Vaneeza said. “I tried my best to come up with a name that honoured the brilliant work of the people behind the Mars 2020 mission. I was inspired by the qualities they possess and use to make space exploration a reality. I wanted to convey that the ability to send machines to do science on another planet is amazing.”

“Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things, and it allows us to expand our horizons to the edges of the universe.”

Although “Ingenuity” was not chosen for the Mars rover, it was ultimately selected as the name of the helicopter that will be sent alongside the rover to Mars.

After the announcement was made, Vaneeza received a congratulatory tweet from astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who alongside Neil Armstrong, was part of the first group to land on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Vaneeza also had the opportunity to meet the team that designed the Mars helicopter, and has been invited to view the launch of the rocket this summer that will carry the rover and helicopter.

“This helicopter will be the first powered flight on another world,” said Vaneeza. “Not only will it be proof of an amazing concept, but it will also add an aerial element to space exploration that will open up multitudes of opportunities for more knowledge and a better understanding of our universe. Having any part in the Mars 2020 mission is incredible, and the helicopter is an amazing feat of engineering that I am thrilled to get to name.”

Learn more about the Mars helicopter on the official webpage and in the video below.