- NASA just added over 10 million names to the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.
- The names were collected as part of NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign which asked the public to send in their names to be part of the mission.
- The names are etched into three small chips that are attached to the exterior of the rover.
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NASA is rapidly approaching the planned launch date of its Mars 2020 mission. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s one of the space agency’s most ambitious adventures to date. The shiny new Perseverance rover will play the starring role, exploring the planet and taking samples of the surface for study. As it’s done in the past, NASA offered the general public their own way to contribute by including their names on the rover itself.
The “Send Your Name to Mars” project asked science fans from all over the globe to submit their names. Those names were then etched into tiny chips that were just recently affixed to the rover. The three chips are seen in the image above, secured behind a transparent plate.
NASA opened submissions in mid-2019 and allowed fans to send in their names for several months before closing the floodgates in September. As has been the case with past calls to send names on missions to space, the program resulted in millions of names coming in. For the Mars 2020 mission, the total tally is 10,932,295. That’s a whole lot of Mars travelers.
But the names of science fans aren’t the only thing being included on the mission. As NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains in a new blog post, finalists from the “Name the Rover” contest will also be honored in the mission:
The names were stenciled by electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. The chips were then were attached to an aluminum plate on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16. Scheduled to launch this summer, Perseverance will land at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.
NASA’s plans for the Mars 2020 mission launch have not changed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. The space agency has been forced to lock down a number of its facilities, telling all but the most mission-critical employees to do what they can from home, but the outbreak has not delayed its plans for Mars.
There’s still time for that to change, however, and if it does, it would mean pushing the mission back to 2022 when the next launch window for Mars missions opens. Because of the way the Earth and Mars orbit the Sun, launching a mission to the Red Planet is only possible every couple of years, making any delay even more impactful.