If you want to take part in the next NASA mission to Mars, there’s still time. NASA is inviting the public to submit their names to be encoded on a chip that will be sent to Mars. That chip will be on the InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission to be to launched on March 4th 2016.
The InSight mission will be sending a lander to the Red Planet to conduct advanced geological tests to study the formation of the planet.
Because Mars has been less geologically active than the Earth (for example, it does not have plate tectonics), it actually retains a more complete record of its history in its own basic planetary building blocks: its core, mantle and crust.
From the InSight mission overview.
By studying the size, thickness, density and overall structure of the Red Planet’s core, mantle and crust, as well as the rate at which heat escapes from the planet’s interior, the InSight mission will provide glimpses into the evolutionary processes of all of the rocky planets in the inner solar system.
In terms of fundamental processes that shape planetary formation, Mars is a veritable “Goldilocks” planet, because it is big enough to have undergone the earliest internal heating and differentiation (separation of the crust, mantle and core) processes that shaped the terrestrial planets (Earth, Venus, Mercury, Moon), but small enough to have retained the signature of those processes over the next four billion years. Within its own structural signature, Mars may contain the most in-depth and accurate record in the solar system of these processes.
The InSight mission will follow the legacy of NASA’s Mars Phoenix mission and send a lander to Mars, which will delve deeper into the surface than any other spacecraft – to investigate the planet’s structure and composition as well as its tectonic activity as it relates to all terrestrial planets, including Earth.
Follow this link to enter your name to be included on the InSight mission.
All the names will be printed on to pages, and the pages will be scanned in and printed on silicon chips. They will use an electron beam “E-beam” machine at JPL that specializes in etching very tiny features (less than 1 micron, or less than the width of a human hair!). This machine is used to to make high-precision microdevices in JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory.
After a successful launch in March of 2016, the InSight Lander is expected to land on Mars on September 28, 2016.