Last month, NASA invited members of the public to send their names to Mars. And the public responded loud and clear.
More than 1.6 million people signed up to have their names etched on a microchip that will be carried on NASA’s upcoming InSight mission, which launches in May of 2018.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., reopened the opportunity after it proved successful in 2015. During that open call, nearly 827,000 names were collected for a microchip that now sits on top of the robotic InSight lander.
The grand total once a second microchip is added in early 2018 will be 2,429,807 names. Space enthusiasts who signed up this last round shared their downloadable “boarding passes” on social media, complete with the total number of flight miles they’ve collected by participating in engagement initiatives for other Mars missions.
InSight 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. The insights into how Mars formed will help us better understand how other rocky planets are created.