CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – In the next few decades, maybe traveling to Mars will be as simple as buying a ticket, printing your boarding pass and strapping in for the seven-month journey. Until then, future Martians can send their names with NASA's next Mars rover, launching next year from Florida.
NASA sent out an open invitation for the public to send their names to the red planet with the yet to be named rover Mars 2020. By Tuesday, thousands had already grabbed their boarding passes. Click here to add your name by Sept. 30 and receive a boarding pass to Mars with your name on it.
According to NASA, the Microdevices Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California will use an electron beam to etch more than a million names onto a silicon chip "with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair." The chip(s) will be protected by a glass cover on the robot.
A similar chip with 2.4 million names landed on Mars with NASA's InSight lander in November 2018.
The new rover is a larger version of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover that will be equipped with a whole new set of science instruments to explore the red planet, including a tiny helicopter and a microphone to record sounds.
United Launch Alliance will launch the 2,300 pound spacecraft atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station no earlier than July 2020. The spacecraft is expected to touch down in the Jezero Crater seven months after launch sometime in February 2021. The launch and landing are coordinated with the next time Mars will be closest to Earth in its orbit of the sun.
Until humans can actually travel to the red planet, just think about the frequent flyer miles a 35.8 million-mile Mars trip could earn, and that Mars 2020 will be there with your name on it.