Want to go to Mars? A manned mission is still many years away, and based on the criteria for becoming a NASA astronaut you will need to be in world-class shape and possess multiple science PhDs from prestigious universities… or you’ll have to be a crazy billionaire with aspirations to become a comic book villain. So let’s face it, most of us aren’t visiting the Red Planet anytime soon. That doesn’t mean we can’t send a piece of ourselves there, though.
The space agency announced (in a story we learned about at Engadget) that when the Mars 2020 rover launches in July of next year (with an expected touch down of February 2021), it will include microchips with millions of names stenciled on them. To be included among the many who will be immortalized on our celestial neighbor, all you have to do is go to the Mars 2020 website and sign up with your email address before September 30. They will be deleting anything that looks like spam, however, so don’t get excited to send “Seymour Butts” to space. If you do participate, you’ll get the chance to print out your own commemorative boarding pass to Mars.
NASA says that this is part of their “public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA’s journey from the Moon to Mars,” which is why those who sign up will also earn “frequent flyer” points.
“Miles (or kilometers) are awarded for each ‘flight,’ with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, giving each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers).”
So no, most of us aren’t going to Mars anytime soon, but at least our names will be waiting for us if we ever do, and we can already start collecting those sweet interplanetary frequent flyer miles before we go.