08/06/2012 01:44 pm ET

Clara Ma, 15, Wins NASA Essay Contest To Name Mars Rover (VIDEO)

Early this morning, the robotic rover "Curiosity" beat tough odds to successfully land on Mars. The team of engineers and scientists was ecstatic -- and so was a 15-year-old girl who played an integral part in the rover's journey. High school sophomore Clara Ma from Lenexa, Kansas added a special touch to the rover three years ago: a name of its own.

Ma read an article about NASA's essay contest to name the Mars rover while in her sixth grade science class in 2009. More than 9,000 students from all 50 states entered the contest.

"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 told NASA. "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."

Her essay suggested the name "Curiosity." She wrote:

"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. 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."

Head over to NASA for the full story.

Since winning the contest, she has seen the rover being built and has even signed it. As the rover landed last night, Ma was a special guest at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Ma, whose favorite subject is science, isn't quite done with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory yet. She told CBS2 and KCAL9, "I'd love to work at JPL some day." She has already scored a coveted internship with the lab. With the right combination of talent, determination, and, yes, curiosity, her dream may very well come true.

Earlier this summer, five teens were honored by Google for their scientific breakthroughs. Grand Prize winner of the 2012 Google Science Fair Brittany Wenger, 17, wrote an app that helps doctors diagnose breast cancer. For more incredible teen scientists, check out the slideshow below.

Did you watch the Mars landing? Are you into the name "Curiosity"? Sound off in the comments below or tweet @HuffPostTeen.