Word of the Day: PERSEVERANCE (With an encouraging story behind NASA’s latest Mars rover and a heartwarming story about corn)

Howdy, Linking Channelists! Thanks for landing on our blog! We welcome you with a very BIG (virtual) hug and smile!

This is our premiere blog post (fireworks please!) and we’ll be talking about one of the greatest human qualities (hint: see the above title), as well as a Mars rover (note: it’s not a person, it’s a machine), and corn. Yes, corn. If you’re thinking, “What does perseverance have to do with all that?”, well, all I can say is, “Read on!”

Just in case you missed the news, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA for short) launched its latest Mars rover on July 30, 2020 from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. This was not the first rover sent to the Red Planet, but the rover’s mission this time is quite unique. The mission of the exploration program is to seek signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past as well as search for evidence of past microbial life. One of the rover’s important jobs on Mars is to explore a site that likely may have been habitable (we like this!). The rover’s key mission requirement is to help NASA prepare for its long-term Mars sample-return mission and crewed mission efforts (we double like this!!). The name of the rover is Perseverance.

Now, you might be asking, “What’s with the name Perseverance?” Couldn’t they just call it Mars Rover the Explorer, like Dora the Explorer? The rhymes sound fun (we think so too, but it’s too generic, sorry!) Well, there’s quite an interesting story behind the naming of the rover and it goes like this:

In August 2019, NASA launched an essay contest for K-12 students from every US state and territory to name its newest Red Planet rovers (red rovers!), called ‘Name the Rover’. Twenty-eight thousand entries, one hundred fifty-five semifinalists, nine finalists, and seven hundred seventy thousand online votes later, a seventh-grader from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia named Alexander Mather won the contest (congrats Alex, we’re very proud of you!). He named the new Red Planet rover Perseverance.

In his award-winning essay, Alex Mather writes, “Curiosity. InSight. Spirit. Opportunity. If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious, and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. Even faced with bitter losses such as Opportunity and Vikram 2, the human race will always persevere into the future.” – Alex Mather.

On his contribution naming the rover, Alex Mather also said, “This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again. This Mars rover will pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusal of the challenge was not an option.”

Wow!! What an insight! I especially love the parts when he talks about our ability to learn to adapt to any situation no matter how harsh, and to not give up despite the many setbacks we may face (in life). While his essay clearly talks about persevering in reaching the human race’s goal to reach Mars, it certainly touches the very soul of our struggles to survive and thrive here on Earth. It should encourage us to take time and ponder the God-given, human quality called perseverance. Alex was right, refusal of the challenge was not – should not be – an option!!

The Meaning of Perseverance

But wait, do we all really understand what the word perseverance means? Do we have a clear picture of the unique nuance of perseverance? Can we firmly tell the subtle yet distinctive contexts between the words perseverance, endurance, and resilience?  

I’d like to take you through a journey to unpack these three words that define the core human survival qualities from the beginning of time.

So, let’s delve into it!

Merriam-Webster English Dictionary defines the noun perseverance as:

  • Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition: the action or condition or an instance of persevering.
  • The quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult.
  • The act or power of continuing to do something in spite of difficulties.

The verb persevere means to continue despite difficulties, opposition or discouragement. Merriam-Webster’s list of the synonyms for persevere includes carry onpersist; while the list of the near antonyms includes give up, knock off, quit, bow, submit, succumb, surrender, yield.

Examples of the word perseverance in sentences:

  • Knowledge, skills, and experience are all equally important to establish a business. However, perseverance is required for the business to succeed.
  • Her perseverance was rewarded: after meticulously preparing herself, finally she was able to defend her thesis.

Based on the above definitions and examples, perseverance focuses on the action of continually and persistently trying or doing something despite adverse circumstances. It’s the persistent acts that matter.

A Lesson in Perseverance: Growing Corn

This past weekend, my husband and I went on a hike in a beautiful state park in northeastern Illinois, about an hour’s drive south of Chicago. The drive was quite tranquil. We were driving through rural roads along what is known as ‘The Corn Belt’, a region of the midwestern United States that has dominated corn production for almost two centuries. The month of September is typically corn harvest time. For miles and miles along the sides of the roads and on the (slightly) rolling hills there were golden corn fields, as far as the eye could see. The farmers’ houses are so sparsely situated that sometimes you can go for a mile from one farmer’s house before seeing another one. I couldn’t help but think about the farmers’ tenacity in growing their corn in such vast fields. Because I knew nothing about growing corn, I did some research on it.

It typically takes 90 to 120 “growing degree” days for corn to come up from planting. However, a corn farmer should factor in adequate soil moisture and air temperatures in calculating the harvest time. While farmers today are mostly using modern systems and technology to grow their corn, there are still things outside of their power that contribute to a successful corn harvest. Air temperature is one. Corn grows best in air temperatures between 60 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (15.55 to 35 degrees Celsius). If air temperatures remain at or below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), emergence will not take place (think fall freeze or those freezing days in May or even June!). The amount of precipitation must also be taken into consideration, as heavy rains can also cause delays in planting corn. In adverse circumstances such these, farmers must continually make the best effort to ensure that their corn will continue to grow and that they will have a good harvest in the fall. If conditions turn out to be highly adverse and farmers are unable to harvest their corn, they must persevere by planning for the future and making the best effort for the next year, hoping that Mother Nature will cooperate for a good harvest. A bad planting year should not and will not stop them from growing and harvesting corn again!

And that, my friends, is what we call perseverance.

Ok, gotcha. But how about endurance? Hmm yes, we definitely need to go through that journey together to uncover endurance, now that we have dug deeper into the meaning and nuances of perseverance! My one and only piece of advice for you is, stay tuned for our upcoming insights on endurance! In the meantime, you are invited to follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn, and like our Facebook page for inspiring and fun quotes and images, useful insights, as well as interactions with fellow Linking Channelists. Share our posts on your social media and tag us with #LinkingChannels and #SpeedFollowsAccuracy to let us know!

Until then, enjoy your day and don’t lose hope, knowing that your perseverance will pay off in due time!


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