Sofi Collis, Missing Girl from Scottsdale, Returns Home Safely; Named Mars Rovers at age 9

Sofi Collis, the 19-year-old girl from Scottsdale reported missing on Christmas Eve, returned home safely late Tuesday night, Scottsdale police say.

See also: - Valley Fever's 12 Most Popular Arizona News Stories of 2012

Collis had been reported missing after being last seen about 1 p.m., possibly on Rollerblades. She was said to have learning disabilities and epilepsy, and her family was worried she might have a seizure without medication. The call for help by the family and police received wide play by the media on Christmas, typically a slow news day.

Scottsdale police Sergeant Mark Clark says he was notified last night about her return.

As first reported by the blog Scottsdale Arizona News, Collis has a fascinating connection to the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity: She named them.

As news stories from 2003 report, the names given to the rovers came from an essay written by Collis, who was adopted as a young child from a Siberian orphanage. The winning entry was published in a June 8, 2003 NASA news release:

"I used to live in an orphanage. It was dark and cold and lonely. At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the 'Spirit' and the 'Opportunity.'"

One of the rovers, Opportunity, is still performing its mission of exploring the Martian surface.

Whatever happens to the remaining rover, we wish Collis the best.

UPDATE: We caught Sofi on the phone this morning. She doesn't want to comment about what happened to her, or what spurred her family to put in the missing person's report. We asked her about naming the Mars rovers, and whether she still thinks about the accomplishment. Not really, she says -- that's "old news."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.