If you’ve ever had an interest in space travel, you’ll be excited to find out that you could be aboard NASA’s next trip to Mars. Okay, technically you won’t be travelling to Mars in the flesh, but NASA has announced that it is accepting submissions from the public to send their names to Mars aboard the Mars 2020 rover, which could leave the earth as soon as July 2020.
The Mars 2020 mission sets the stage for human exploration of the Red Planet, and the latest call for submissions follows NASA’s 2016 InSight mission, which saw 2 million names travel to Mars with the InSight lander.
Speaking in Washington, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said that the next mission to Mars would be something that the space agency is excited to have the public partake in.
“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration. 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,” said Zurbuchen.
Until 30 September this year, members of the public will be able to submit their names to NASA, after which the Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will stencil the submitted names onto a silicon chip with an electron beam, ultimately filling it with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair, allowing more than a million names to be written on a single, dime-sized chip. The microchip will then travel to Mars on the rover under a glass cover.
Submitting your name doesn’t just come with bragging rights, but you’ll also receive a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points (the InSight mission saw participants receive approximately 300 million frequent flyer miles, equivalent to almost 500 million frequent flyer kilometres) after which participants are also able to download corresponding digital mission patches.
To submit your name to NASA, simply add your name to the list until 30 September to receive a souvenir boarding pass to Mars.
The Mars 2020 rover is a robotic scientist that weighs more than 1000 kilograms. It is being sent to Mars to search for signs of past microbial life, to characterise the planet’s climate and geology, and to collect samples for future return to the earth, laying the foundations for human exploration of Mars in the future.
If it does leave Earth in July 2020, the Mars 2020 rover is expected to arrive on the Red Planet by February 2021.