It may still not have a name, but this much is certain: NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover will have a dime-sized microchip attached to it with the names of people who have signed up for “boarding passes” through NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign. Are you one of them? If not, the space agency invites you to submit your name, too.
Join the Latest Mars Mission. Sort of.
The Jet Propulsion Lab’s Microdevices Laboratory is stenciling all the names onto a small silicon chip with an electron beam, with lines of text measuring less than 75 nanometers, which is about 1/1000th of a human hair, according to NASA. But this is not the first time the government organization has invited the public to send names to space. In 2014, over a million names were submitted to be included on Orion’s Flight Test, and in 2016, more than two million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars. Each mission comes with its own badge, and users can amass “frequent flyer” points by signing up for boarding passes for multiple missions.
“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, as quoted in a press release. “It’s an exciting time for NASA as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”
The latest Mars mission is the first planned round trip to another planet. The rover will launch sometime after July of next year, with a touchdown date set for February 2021. The “robotic scientist” weighs 2,300 pounds, and according to NASA, “will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.”
Get Your Boarding Pass to Mars Before It’s Too Late
The “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign launched on May 21 and has since amassed more than nine million names and counting. The deadline to submit names for a boarding pass to Mars is September 30, 2019.