How to Send Your Name to Mars on NASA's Next Mission to the Red Planet

NASA is currently accepting applications from people who want their names to be carried on the next journey to Mars.

More than 5.8 million people have signed up—over half the number of people who applied to have their names carried by the Perseverance rover that touched down on the Red Planet last week.

Applications have closed for that mission since it is already on the Red Planet, but last year NASA encouraged people all over the world to submit their names.

The space administration said it was reopening the project due to "a lot of excitement" surrounding the Perseverance mission, and said it wanted to allow people who "missed the chance" last time to take part.

People who submit their names will be given a mock printable "boarding pass," which acts as proof of their participation, and a "frequent flyer" account which shows how many miles their name travelled.

At the time of writing, the project was most popular by far in the Philippines, where over 2 million people had taken part. The U.S. came next with 670,000 names, followed by India and the U.K. with around 274,000 and 257,000 respectively.

Submitting one's name means it will be etched onto a microchip with an electron beam, subject to a review process.

This microchip will then be placed onto the next NASA spacecraft destined for Mars. It is not currently known what spacecraft this will be, nor when the next Mars mission will take place.

Names are etched onto the chip in a process called electron or "e-beam" lithography, which uses a focused beam of electrons to form patterns into materials.

The beam is so accurate it can write things on a scale down to 1 nanometer. This is about 100,000 times thinner than the thickness of a sheet of paper. Fingernails grow about 1 nanometer every second.

There are approximately 25,400,000 nanometers in an inch, which is how this process is able to cram so many names onto a microchip.

Three such chips can be seen on the Perseverance rover in a NASA photo below, affixed to a plate which was bolted onto the rover's frame.

NASA has allowed people to get their names carried on missions to Mars a number of times in the past, including the Mars Science Lab, MAVEN, Mars Exploration Rovers, Orion, and InSight projects.

NASA name plate
The plate bolted onto the frame of the Perseverance rover, on which three microchips can be seen, top-left. These chips contain the 10 million-plus names that were submitted for the mission. NASA/JPL-Caltech