If you don’t fancy flying to the moon with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa in 2023, you could send your name to Mars instead. Let’s face it, it’s a lot easier and involves far less effort on your part.
The opportunity is part of a NASA initiative, which invites people to send a name to Mars aboard a spacecraft. It’s super simple — all you have to do is go to the website and fill in your name, country, postal code and email. Then you’re all set for your trip to the red planet. After completing the form, you get a “boarding pass” with your name on it, which is confirmation that you’ve joined the other 11 million people who’ve already signed up.
According to NASA, almost 2.25 million of those people are from the U.S., although the Philippines is close behind with 2.2 million. The other countries with high numbers are Italy, Mexico, Brazil, India and France.
The total number of names is already more than those that were etched onto “fingernail-sized chips” on a placard on the Perseverance Mars rover. They were installed on March 16, 2020 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to a NASA press release. The names were individually stenciled onto the chips by electron beam, and they were then attached to the upper-left corner of a placard on the spacecraft.
Perseverance successfully landed on the surface of Mars on February 18 at 3:55 p.m. ET. The landing was streamed live via NASA’s YouTube channel, and high definition footage from the final moments of the rover’s descent was later released.
This week, the NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Twitter page revealed that the spacecraft is “doing lots of health checkouts, getting ready to get to work.”
“I’ve checked many tasks off my list, including instrument tests, imaging, and getting my arm moving,” the post read. “Warming up for a marathon of science.”
This week I’ve been doing lots of health checkouts, getting ready to get to work. I’ve checked many tasks off my list, including instrument tests, imaging, and getting my arm moving. Warming up for a marathon of science. pic.twitter.com/A0aqhWVo5T
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 3, 2021
NASA also released a high-definition, 360-degree view of Mars, and it looks pretty incredible. To do this, they stitched together a series of 142 images taken by the rover, each of which can capture details as small as 3 to 5 millimeters.
“Landing on Mars is always an incredibly difficult task and we are proud to continue building on our past success,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Michael Watkins, per ABC 15. “But, while Perseverance advances that success, this rover is also blazing its own path and daring new challenges in the surface mission. We built the rover not just to land but to find and collect the best scientific samples for return to Earth, and its incredibly complex sampling system and autonomy not only enable that mission, they set the stage for future robotic and crewed missions.”
On Friday, March 5, you can join a discussion focused on the achievement of the rover so far, and “get a look at what comes next as I start roving,” the Twitter page says.
Now that the team and I have achieved a series of “firsts” since my landing on the Red Planet, join a discussion on Friday, March 5, at 12:30 pm PT (3:30 pm ET/2030 UTC) focused on those big moments and get a look at what comes next as I start roving. https://t.co/XHWGLYRGw4 pic.twitter.com/O2gXzclXxb
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 4, 2021
The name of the spacecraft that will go to Mars with the millions of names currently being collected hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the boarding pass gives a travel date of July 2026. And like the Perseverance rover, the spacecraft will launch from Cape Canaveral at the Florida Air Force Station, landing at the Jezero crater on Mars.