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Want your name on the next Mars rover?

| Monday, August 31, 2020

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love space. I love everything from the stars to the theory of relativity. I find it fascinating and mind-boggling all at the same time. There is so much to discover when it comes to the cosmos. 

One day, while packing up to move back into Saint Mary’s, I looked at my phone and saw an email from NASA (because I’m a nerd and signed up to get monthly update emails) and it said that you can put your name on the next Mars rover that they will be sending up in 2026 and will land on Mars in 2028. Now, I know that is a long time to wait, but spots fill up fast! So I quickly signed my family up and sent the link to all my friends. I then began to think about how 10.9 million names would actually be sent up to Mars. So I did some research. 

After a few Google searches, I found the answer. According to NASA, “The names will be stenciled by an electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the finalists in NASA’s ‘Name the Rover’ contest.” After reading this, I was in shock that my name and the names of my family and friends would be actually engraved onto the Mars rover that will be launching in 2026. 

The intended mission for this Mars rover is that it will land on Mars and deposit a “fetch rover,” which will collect samples of the Red Planet and place them into a rocket, which will launch from Mars and land here on earth. When this happens, it’ll be the first time in human history that something else is launched off of another planet in the solar system to Earth. This rover will be designed to continue the work and research of the rover Perseverance that was sent up this past July. Perseverance is well on its way to Mars and will land there on Feb. 18, 2021 to “seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples to return to Earth.” This rover will last at least one Mars year, which is about 687 Earth days. If you click the link and scroll to the bottom of the page, you can actually keep up with its voyage to Mars. 

There are plenty of spots left for people to put their name on Mars, and I would recommend you share it with your friends and family. It’s not everyday you’re able to say that your name is actually engraved on a Mars rover. I know it’s just a name and this rover won’t be landing until 2028 — it’s a long time to wait — but it wouldn’t surprise me if in our lifetime or our children’s lifetime, humans send a person to Mars. At the rate technology is advancing and space exploration is being privatized with amounts of money we can’t even comprehend, putting a person on Mars isn’t out of the question. 

There is a part of me that thinks maybe we should leave Mars untouched and just leave it to the rovers to collect data for us. Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to overstay our welcome and before you know it, we could pollute Mars just like we have polluted Earth. But that’s not what this article is about. 

I encourage you to sign your name on the next Mars rover and definitely sign up for the monthly NASA newsletter. There is always something to discover in the universe. And who knows, maybe aliens will find our space junk we have left on planets and read your name.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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