The panel primarily took into account the quality of submitted essays. Name suggestions from the Mars Science Laboratory project leaders and a non-binding public poll also were considered.
"I was really interested in space, but I thought space was something I could only read about in books and look at during the night from so far away," Ma said. "I thought that I would never be able to get close to it, so for me, naming the Mars rover would at least be one step closer."
"Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind. It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day," Ma wrote in her winning essay. "Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn't be who we are today. Curiosity is the passion that drives us through our everyday lives. We have become explorers and scientists with our need to ask questions and to wonder."
"We have been eager to call the rover by name," said Pete Theisinger, who manages the JPL team building and testing Curiosity. "Giving it a name worthy of this mission's quest means a lot to the people working on it."
Curiosity will be larger and more capable than any craft previously sent to land on the Red Planet. It will check to see whether the environment in a selected landing region ever has been favorable for supporting microbial life and preserving evidence of life. The rover also will search for minerals that formed in the presence of water and look for several chemical building blocks of life.
The Mars Science Laboratory project is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about the mission and the contest winner, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl