You may not be able to send yourself to Mars, but you can send your name aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base next year. Those wanting to participate in the “fly-your-name” program can enter their info on this site. Their names will then be included in a silicon microchip affixed to the lander. So far, more than 600,000 people have signed up for “boarding passes.” Submissions will be accepted until September 8.
“Our next step in the journey to Mars is another fantastic mission to the surface,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, in a statement. “By participating in this opportunity to send your name aboard InSight to the Red Planet, you’re showing that you’re part of that journey and the future of space exploration.”
This is the second time NASA has given the public a chance to feel included in a mission. Last December, the names of 1.38 million people flew along with first test flight of the agency’s Orion spacecraft, which will eventually ferry astronauts to deep space, including Mars and an asteroid. The name program also includes “frequent-flier” points that will span multiple missions over multiple decades, NASA said.
InSight — which stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations — will be launched from Vandenberg in March 2016 and is scheduled to land on Mars on September 28, 2016. The mission is the first to examine the deep interior of the planet, NASA officials said. The lander will place the first seismometer on its surface and deploy a “self-hammering heat probe” that will burrow into the ground.
“These and other InSight investigations will improve our understanding about the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including Earth,” officials said.