As part of NASA’s ‘Send Your Name to Mars’ campaign, they’ve been stenciled onto three microchips along with essays from NASA’s ‘Name the Rover’ contest. Next stop: Mars.
NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign invited people around the world to submit their names to ride aboard the agency’s next rover to the Red Planet. Some 10,932,295 people did just that. The names were stenciled by electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the 155 semi-finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest. The chips were then attached to an aluminum plate on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 16. Scheduled to launch this summer, Perseverance will land at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.
The three chips share space on the anodized plate with a laser-etched graphic depicting Earth and Mars joined by the star that gives light to both. While commemorating the rover that connects the two worlds, the simple illustration also pays tribute to the elegant line art of the plaques aboard the Pioneer spacecraft and golden records carried by Voyagers 1 and 2. Affixed to the center of the rover’s aft crossbeam, the plate will be visible to cameras on Perseverance’s mast.
Currently, the coronavirus has not impacted the Mars Perseverance rover launch schedule. The installation was one of the numerous recent activities performed by the Perseverance assembly, test, and launch operations team. On March 21, the team began reconfiguring the rover so it can ride atop the Atlas V rocket. Steps included stowing the robotic arm, lowering and locking in place the remote sensing mast and high-gain antenna, and retracting its legs and wheels.
The Perseverance rover is a robotic scientist weighing just under 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms). It will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize Mars’ climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and help pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, is building and will manage operations of the Mars Perseverance rover for NASA. The agency’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. The Mars 2020 project with its Perseverance rover is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.