The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.
The 1,000-kg rover would search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for a future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington, DC.
“It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighbouring planet, and even the origins of life itself,” he added.
How will the names be etched on microchips
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California will use an electron beam to stencil the submitted names onto a silicon chip with lines of text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). At that size, more than a million names can be written on a single dime-size chip.
The chip (or chips) will ride on the rover under a glass cover.
NASA’s InSight mission to Mars
More than two million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, giving each ‘flyer’ nearly 500 million frequent flyer kms.