This summer has been filled with proclamations of, “To the moon!” Yes, the anniversary of Apollo 11 has been consuming the world, and delightfully so. Lest it be left out, now is the time to turn our attention over to that lovely Red Planet and the Mars 2020 rover.
Fancy a trip to Mars? There are boarding passes to be had. Did your heart just leap with excitement at the possibility? Here’s the scoop. A press release from NASA alerts that the public can submit their names to be stenciled on chips and launched aboard the Mars 2020 rover. This “…represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.”
This isn’t the first time NASA has sent names to Mars. Back with the May 2018 launch of the Mars InSight, over two million names flew along on the mission, garnering each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flier kilometers).
From now until Sept. 30, 2019, Mars fans can submit their names for the rover’s mission. The process of getting names into space is a fascinating one. In charge of this task is Pasadena, California’s Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Using an electron beam, names that have been submitted to NASA are stenciled onto a silicon chip with “lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be written on a single dime-sized microchip. The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.”
To submit your name for a boarding pass to Mars and to be considered for that sleek microchip, visit http://go.nasa.gov/mars2020pass.
New to the rover and not exactly sure what mission it’s undertaking?
Per NASA, “The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), 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.”
There’s no need to wait to catch the rover in action. NASA has a live webcam in the JPL’s clean room where scientists are busily prepping the rover. “By live-streaming the construction and testing of the Mars 2020 rover, we’re able to share this mission of discovery with the world, even before launch to the Red Planet,” Stephanie L. Smith, the social media supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tells Parentology.
“This live look inside our Spacecraft Assembly Facility, affectionately named ‘Seeing 2020,’ has been going 24/7 since June 6, and will continue until the rover ships to Kennedy Space Center to prepare for launch,” Smith says.
“Along with the feed, we host live moderated chat Monday through Thursday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT (2 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET) where viewers of all ages can ask questions and get to know the mission.” Smith continues.
“By the time the rover lands on Mars, thousands of people around the world will not only have awareness of the science it’s there to do, but a personal connection to the mission. The robot you see now is the same one that will be sending selfies from Mars in February 2021. That bond is something special.”