Want to Travel to Mars Next Year? Your Name, At Least, Can Fly Aboard Next JPL Mars Rover

Published : Wednesday, May 22, 2019 | 4:40 AM

Members of the public who want to send their name to Mars on NASA's next rover mission to the Red Planet (Mars 2020) can get a souvenir boarding pass and their names etched on microchips to be affixed to the rover. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When NASA’s Mars 2020 rover lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020, it will be carrying dime-size microchips that contain the names of people who are willing to send their names to the Red Planet, courtesy of the Microdevices Laboratory at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, who will be etching those names on the chips and making sure the chips get a ride to Mars.

The Microdevices Lab will use an electron beam to etch the names onto a silicon chip, with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair which is 75 nanometers.

At that size, more than a million names can be inscribed on a single dime-size microchip. The chips will ride on the rover under a glass cover.

NASA is now giving the public an opportunity to submit their names through an agency webpage which also promises a “boarding pass” and “frequent flyer” miles – or kilometers – plus a downloadable digital mission patch for printing.

When NASA’s InSight mission lifted off in May 2018, it was carrying more than two million names on microchips, giving each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles, or nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers.

Mars 2020 is a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds. When it set foot on Mars, the rover 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.

“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said. “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 opportunity to send your name to Mars is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA’s journey from the Moon to Mars.

From now until September 30, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars by registering through https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/mars2020/

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

For more information on the mission, visit www.nasa.gov/mars2020.

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