As much talk as there is about Mars colonization, it’s still going to be a good few years before humans land on the Red Planet. But that doesn’t mean that your name can’t be among the first to make its way to the Martian landscape — and it won’t even require you to train as an astronaut to do so. That’s because NASA opened up a new public outreach initiative to let individuals send their names to Mars, as an engraving on a silicon chip sent with the space agency’s next Mars rover, due to launch in 2020 and touch down in February 2021.
“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD), said in a statement. “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.”
The names will be individually etched onto the chip using an electron beam at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Each line of names will be smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair. This 75-nanometer scale means that it will be possible to write upward of a million names on a single dime-sized microchip. The chip (or, potentially, multiple chips) will be stored inside the NASA Mars rover. This 2,300-pound rover will be used to search for signs of past microbial life, take measurements of the Martian climate and geology, and collect samples for eventual return to Earth at some future date.
To find out more about how to submit your name, you can visit NASA’s dedicated webpage here. Everyone who signs up as part of the campaign will receive a souvenir boarding pass (think of the air miles you would theoretically rack up!). An image of the final chip will be put on the Mars 2020 “Send Your Name to Mars” homepage, and the Mars 2020 mission homepage after it is installed on the rover. This will be sometime in the spring of 2020.
Our only other question: Just how many people do you predict are going to try and submit some variation on “Marsy McMarsface” as their name of choice?