If you have ever thought about going to Mars, now is your chance. NASA is asking people to submit their names that will be etched on a chip on board the Mars rover launching in 2020.
The rover which NASA describes as a ‘robotic scientist’ will touch down on the red planet in 2021 and will search for signs of past microbial life, gather data on the planet’s climate and collects samples of Martian dirt for return to Earth. The rover marks an important step in NASA’s bigger plans to send humans to deep space.
NASA wants to share mission excitement
"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 (SMD) in Washington.
"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.”
Space lovers can submit their name by clicking this link. Once they have entered their name, postcode and email they will be sent a limited edition ‘boarding pass’ for the mission and are given the chance to earn ‘frequent flyer’ points for future missions.
Inspire the next generation of astronauts
The campaign is part of an effort to raise public awareness about NASA’s activities and to inspire and educate children about space and STEM-related study. Over 400, 000 names have already been submitted but you have until September 30 to get your name on the passenger list.
All the names will be stenciled onto a silicon chip; each line of text will be smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). More than a million names can fit on a single dime-size chip. The engraved chips will hitch a ride on the rover under a specially designed glass cover.
NASA looks to deep space
NASA has clear plans to send humans to Mars, and the 2020 rover mission is a key part of the journey. The other mission to help prepare a possible Mars mission is NASA's lunar mission expected to take place in 2024.
NASA recently announced the next crewed mission to the moon will be called Artemis and include a female astronaut. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the mission name as part of NASA’s updated budget request.
The agency is asking for an additional 1.6 billion dollars to help get the Artemis program underway. The current government has directed NASA to accelerate its Moon mission. President Donald Trump tweeted that he would update the current federal budget to include the additional 1.6 billion dollars that were requested.
The president’s current budget already has 21 billion dollars allocated for the agency. Part of the additional funding will be used to speed up the development of vehicles needed for the mission.
These include a new powerful rocket called the Space Launch System, or the SLS, as well as a new crew-carrying spacecraft called Orion. The SLS will launch the Orion into deep space from where it will continue its journey towards the Moon. These two vehicles are expected to be tested in 2020, but the exact date is yet to be set.
NASA has boasted that ‘this time we’ll stay’ when describing a future Moon mission that would see the development of a space station orbiting the Moon.