NASA calls for names to go to Mars


One million people can have their name etched on a chip inside the Mars 2020 rover. Andrew Masterson reports.


An artist's impression of the Mars 2020 rover in operation. One million names not shown.

NASA/JPL

NASA is offering members of the public the opportunity to have their names inscribed in silicon and sent to Mars.

The administration’s next Red Planet mission, Mars 2020, involves the deployment of a rover as the next phase in a long-term program of robotic exploration. The Mars 2020 mission will prioritise the search for life on the planet – in particular, by looking for signs of past microbial life.

As with any off-planet deployment, weight is a prime concern for the mission planners. The new rover will weigh more than 1000 kilograms, and every gram is crucial.

However, the folk of NASA have found room for an extra tiny silicon chip, upon which will be laser engraved – in letters 75 nanometres high – the names of up to a million people back on Earth.

Getting on the list is easy and free. Simply go to the appropriate bit of the Mars 2020 website – here – and enter your details.

You will receive a novelty digital boarding pass – a quaintly old-fashioned looking document – to store or print out.

Also provided is an initial tranche of “frequent flyer” points. These will rack up as each phase of the mission ticks by, and even more so once the mission takes off during the launch window in July 2020. The rover is scheduled to land on the planet’s surface in February 2021.

“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” says NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen.

“It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighbouring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”

This is not the first time the administration has collected names to send into space. A similar scheme was introduced before the launch of the Mars-bound InSight mission, which carried the names of two million people – and earned each of them 500 million frequent flyer points, which were, sadly, non-transferable to other airline accounts.

The Mars 2020 list will stay open until September 30.

  1. https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/overview/
  2. https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/mars2020/
  3. https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/
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