JPL Names ‘Rolling Stones Rock’ on Mars

Published : Friday, August 23, 2019 | 4:17 AM

For decades, the music of The Rolling Stones has had a global reach here on Earth. Last night in the Rose Bowl, JPL announced the band’s influence extends all the way to Mars.

The team behind NASA’s InSight lander has named a Martian rock after the band: ‘Rolling Stones Rock.’

The Rolling Stones collectively said they were delighted with the news.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. posed with members of NASA's Mars InSight lander team before the Rolling Stones took the stage at the Rose Bowl on Aug. 22, 2019. Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

“What a wonderful way to celebrate the ‘Stones No Filter’ tour arriving in Pasadena. This is definitely a milestone in our long and eventful history. A huge thank you to everyone at NASA for making it happen.”

A little larger than a golf ball, the rock appeared to have rolled about 3 feet (1 meter) on Nov. 26, 2018, propelled by InSight’s thrusters as the spacecraft touched down on Mars to study the Red Planet’s deep interior.

In images taken by InSight the next day, several divots in the orange-red soil can be seen trailing Rolling Stones Rock. It’s the farthest NASA has seen a rock roll while landing a spacecraft on another planet.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. made the announcement Thursday night at the concert the iconic band took the stage.

Backstage before making the announcement, Downey said, “Cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing…”

The InSight mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, just up the road from the Rose Bowl.

Having helped NASA land all of its Mars missions since 1997, JPL geologist Matt Golombek is a rock star in his own right. He and fellow scientists count rocks and assess the safety of potential landing sites.

“I’ve seen a lot of Mars rocks over my career,” Golombek said. “This one probably won’t be in a lot of scientific papers, but it’s definitely one of the coolest.”