NASA makes final call for Mars rover

Max Blenkin

NASA has announced the final boarding call for those who want to send their name to the Red Planet on the Mars 2020 rover.

NASA makes final call for Mars rover
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So far, more than 9.4 million people from around the world have done just that, but there’s still time for more.

The 30 September deadline for NASA’s Send Your Name to Mars campaign gives the mission enough time to stencil submitted names on a chip that will be affixed to the rover. 

That’s scheduled to launch as early as July 2020 and expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021. 

The Mars 2020 rover represents the initial leg of humanity’s first planned round trip to another planet.

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“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.

“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 opened on 21 May, and to participate, all you need do is fill in the online form. NASA provides an online boarding pass and frequent flyer miles, good for absolutely nothing other than bragging rights.

The names won’t be in real big writing. In fact, you would need a microscope.

Mission team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will use an electron beam to etch submitted names onto a microchip, in lines of text 75 nanometres – less than one-tenth the width of a human hair.

Each chip will be about the size of a US dime coin.

However, multiple chips will be needed. NASA conducted a similar campaign for the Mars InSight lander, which touched down on the Red Planet in November 2018 with more than 2 million names aboard.

Once on the Red Planet, the 1,040 kilogram rover will search for signs of past microbial life, characterise the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration.

NASA has also launched a contest to name the rover, though that’s only open to US schoolchildren.

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