The spacecraft is scheduled to launch as early as next summer, and should touch down on Earth's sister planet in February 2021. Each line of text will be a mere 75 nanometers wide - which is less than a thousandth the thickness of a human hair.
The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. A trip to Mars will earn "flyers" some 300 million miles (500 million kilometers), the distance the Mars 2020 rover is expected to traverse from Earth in order to arrive at the Red Planet. The engraved chips will hitch a ride on the rover under a specially designed glass cover. The NASA mission will precede any human exploration of Mars but will have a chance to indirectly land on the planet in spirit. After all, more than 2.4 million names were etched on two chips that were sent to Mars on NASA's InSight lander past year. You'll even get a souvenir boarding pass. The 2,300 lb rover is created to search for signs of past microbial life, gather data on the planet's climate and geology, and collect samples that will be returned to Earth.
At the time of this writing, there were already over 350,000 names submitted, and it's likely that by the time the submission period ends in September, the number will grow into the millions.
The U.S. space agency says the boarding pass will feature the first and last name of those who participate "stenciled on chips" to the Red Planet once the rover launches in July 2020.
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"More than 2 million names flew on NASA's InSight mission to Mars, giving each "flyer" about 300 million frequent flyer miles - almost 500 million frequent flyer kilometres". At that size, more than a million names can fit on a single dime-size chip, NASA says.
Corresponding digital mission patches are also available for download.
Nasa is aiming to return humans to the moon by 2024, conduct further exploration of its surface and use what it learns to support sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.
The Mars 2020 rover itself has been referred to as a "souped-up science machine" that will aim to scan the planet for signs of ancient life using its 23 eyes.