NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover To Send 10 Million Names to Red Planet

Tomorrow, NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is scheduled to touch down on the surface of the red planet while carrying a special payload—the names of more than 10 million people.

Last year, the space agency asked people around the world to submit their names to ride aboard the rover.

In the end, more than 10.9 million did so, and their names were etched onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips using beams of electrons.

In order to fit so many names on the three chips, each line of text is smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair, according to NASA.

The technique used to etch the names onto the chips is normally used to manufacture high-precision, nanometer-scale devices.

The silicon chips were affixed to an aluminum plate on the side of the rover, which is approaching the red planet after a nearly seven-month-long journey.

The chips also contain the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA's "Name the Rover" contest, which the agency also held last year.

Participants who submitted their names to be etched onto the rover received a souvenir "boarding pass to Mars" and "frequent flyer points" that can be used to download mission patches.

If you missed out on submitting your name last time, you can apply to send it to Mars on NASA's next flight to the red planet on the space agency's website. So far, more than 4.4 million new reservations have been made by people around the world.

The Perseverance rover is scheduled to land on the red planet at approximately 3:55 p.m. ET on Thursday.

If you would like to follow the landing, the space agency will be providing live coverage via the NASA TV Public Channel and NASA website, as well as the space agency's smartphone app, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitch, Daily Motion, and THETA.TV.

The rover is a robotic scientist, weighing around 2,300 pounds, that will search for signs of past microbial life on the red planet, while also studying Mars' climate and geology. The mission will pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.

The rover's landing site is the 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater—an area researchers think was once home to a river delta billions of years ago, making it a promising spot to search for signs of microbial life.

Perseverance is also carrying another special payload in the form of a unique technology experiment—a helicopter known as "Ingenuity" that will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

NASA's Mars Perseverance rover
A placard commemorating NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign was installed on the Perseverance Mars rover on March 16, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Three fingernail-sized chips affixed to the upper-left corner of the placard feature the names of 10,932,295 people who participated. NASA/JPL-Caltech