NASA also solicited recommendations from the public and from project leaders, and there was no guarantee that the winning student entry would be selected as the name of the rover.
But 12-year old Clara Ma's suggestion of Curiosity won the day. Ma is a student at Sunflower Elementary School in Kansas.
"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," she wrote in the 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."
And that seems a pretty cool sentiment given the rover mission's goal of finding out more about one of our neighbouring planets.
What did people working on the project think? See page 2, where you can also find out how your name can travel to Mars on Curiosity.