Right now, not only can you send a postcard into space, but you can also send your name to Mars – on board NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. All you need to need is enter your name and e-mail address at go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass. Your name will then be etched onto a microchip that is mounted on the rover. Your name will be arranged on a line that is 75 micrometers high. This will allow NASA to etch a million names on the chip. 2 million names flew along with the Insight probe. As a reward you’ll get a virtual boarding pass for the flight.
Similar projects have already been done – for the launch of the Insight probe and for the first Orion test flight. If you participated in those projects too (important: the e-mail addresses have to match), then you are already a “Frequent Flyer.” You will receive your own account on the NASA website and a Mission Patch for each completed mission.
The launch window for Mars 2020 is at the end of July 2020. The new rover will land on the Red Planet in February 2021. The mission is currently planned to last for one Mars year. From experience, however, the NASA rovers can last much longer. Mars 2020 will land in the Jezero Crater, which might have been filled with water a long time ago. There it will search for traces of life with, among other things, its own drill. Its technical design is based on the successful Curiosity rover. It weighs a good ton, carrying, among other things, a ground-penetrating radar and an experiment that will attempt to generate oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Mars 2020 will also use spectrometry to search for signs of life.
Don’t wait too long – the gate closes on September 30, 2019. The number of participants is growing rapidly. When I registered, the counter was still below 14,000. Twenty minutes later it had almost reached 20,000.