Published : Wednesday, November 8, 2017 | 6:43 AM
More than 1.6 million people now have their names etched onto a microchip that NASA’s InSight lander will carry to Mars in 2018.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory first opened the opportunity for the public to send their names to Mars in 2015. During that open call, nearly 827,000 names were collected for a microchip that now sits on top of the robotic InSight lander.
Last month, NASA again invited people to send their names, and the public responded loud and clear.
Before the mission officially launches in May, a second microchip will be added, and the grand total of names headed to the Red Planet will be 2,429,807.
Space enthusiasts who signed up this last round shared their downloadable “boarding passes” on social media, complete with the total number of flight miles they’ve collected by participating in engagement initiatives for other Mars missions.
InSight, which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by listening for “Marsquakes.” These quakes travel through the planet’s geologic material at different speeds and give scientists a glimpse of the composition and structure of Mars’ inside. Insight into how Mars formed will help man better understand how other rocky planets are created.
The mission was to have launched in March 2016, but a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument in December 2015 prompted NASA to suspend preparations for launch.
Since the suspension, JPL scientists have been redesigning, building and conducting qualification tests of the new vacuum enclosure for the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), the component that failed in 2015.
France’s space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), is leading instrument level integration and test activities for the InSight mission.
JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, administered by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver. It was delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, in December 2015 in preparation for the March 2016 launch, and returned to Lockheed Martin’s Colorado facility in April 2016.
Preparation for InSight ramped up this summer. In May, the spacecraft will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California and will be the first interplanetary launch in history from the U.S. West Coast.