Over multiple decades, The Rolling Stones have enthralled music lovers from across the globe, and now the legacy of the English rock band gets extended to Mars, courtesy NASA. The team behind the US space agency’s InSight lander has named a rock on the red-coloured planet after the band.
The Rolling Stones Rock, which is a little larger than the size of a golf ball, was seen to have rolled for about 3 feet (1 meter) back on November 26 last year due to NASA InSight’s thrusters when it was touching down on the surface of the neighbouring planet. In the images that were taken by the InSight lander, divots in the orange-red soil could be observed trailing the particular rock. This is the farthest, that NASA has seen a rock roll across during the landing of a spacecraft on another planet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a statement.
The announcement was made by actor Robert Downey Jr. on Thursday, at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena before The Rolling Stones took the stage. “Cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing…” he said at the backstage before making the announcement, the JPL statement said.
“What a wonderful way to celebrate the ‘Stones No Filter’ tour arriving in Pasadena,” the iconic rock band said in the statement. “This is definitely a milestone in our long and eventful history. A huge thank you to everyone at NASA for making it happen.”
The InSight mission is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory which is based in Pasadena. “Part of NASA’s charter is to share our work with different audiences. When we found out the Stones would be in Pasadena, honoring them seemed like a fun way to reach fans all over the world.” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division said.
However, NASA says that the new name is currently an informal one as it has not been approved by the International Astronomical Union, which is the concerned authority to officially name the celestial objects and their features. But NASA scientists working with the agency’s Mars rovers have given lots of unofficial nicknames to rocks and other geological features.
By doing this it gets easier for the space scientists to discuss the different objects and refer to them in the scientific papers. So even though the name ‘Rolling Stones Rock’ is informal, it will appear on working maps of the Red Planet, the JPL statement said. The US space agency will use its robotic missions to the neighbouring planet to prepare itself for human exploration there.
Apart from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space agency Roscosmos will also jointly launch the ExoMars programme next year. NASA has also recently confirmed the next phase of development of its Europa Clipper mission which is an interplanetary mission to explore for extraterrestrial life on Jupiter’s Galilean moon Europa.