More than 1.3 lakh Indian space enthusiasts have submitted their names to NASA to be carried to Mars onboard the US space agency’s mission to the red planet next year. Last month, NASA invited members of the public to send their names which will be carried on the InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission to Mars.
Those who submitted their names were provided online ‘boarding passes’ for the mission.
The names are being etched on a silicon wafer microchip using an electron beam to form letters with lines one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. The chip is affixed to the InSight lander deck and will remain on Mars forever. This chip will be carried on InSight mission to the red planet, which launches on May 5, next year. A lot of Indians responded to NASA’s call for names for the Mars mission. The total number of names received by NASA from all over the world was 2,429,807.
US had the most number of people – 6,76,773 – sending their names, followed by China with 2,62,752 names. India stands at number three with 1,38,899 names submitted for the mission. “Mars continues to excite space enthusiasts of all ages,” said Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission’s principal investigator, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. “This opportunity lets them become a part of the spacecraft that will study the inside of the Red Planet,” said Banerdt.
“The ‘send your name to Mars’ initiative is something we have done for a number of major NASA missions in the past – not just for Mars missions. It’s just a fun outreach activity that lets people engage with the mission,” Andrew Good of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California told PTI. The deadline to submit names was last week.
Space enthusiasts who signed up shared their downloadable “boarding passes” on social media, complete with the total number of flight miles they have collected by participating in engagement initiatives for other Mars missions. InSight, scheduled to land on Mars on November 26, next year, will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by listening for marsquakes. These quakes travel through geologic material at different speeds and give scientists a glimpse of the composition and structure of the planet’s inside.
InSight’s role is not only to study Mars, but also to gain broader insight into the formation of rocky planets in the entire solar system.