Mars 2020 is shaping up nicely. NASA recently revealed that its rover-hauling spacecraft is essentially complete and currently undergoing testing — well ahead of its July 2020 launch window — and it’s now accepting names of hopeful Mars “travelers” who want to get in on the action.
No, you can’t actually go to Mars — nor would you probably want to — but as with past Mars missions, NASA will be including up to several million names of regular folks who want to participate in the mission in a small way.
The names, which will be printed very, very small onto a chip affixed to the rover, will be pulled from NASA’s sign-up list which you can add to right now. For your contribution, you’ll receive a “boarding pass” to commemorate your involvement in the mission and you’ll also get what NASA refers to as “frequent flyer miles” that accrue for each mission you submit your name to.
The most recent mission to use this same system was the Mars InSight lander, which traveled some 301 million miles to the red planet and landed safely. NASA tracks all of this data and you can check your own Frequent Flyer Club membership on the agency’s website.
You’ve really got to hand it to NASA when it comes to involving the general public in the important scientific work its scientists are doing. Aside from studies and more formal reports, the agency is incredibly open, publishing raw images from rovers and satellites on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis for everyone to see.
If you want to include your name on the Mars 2020 mission all you have to do is submit a brief form and then wait a couple of years for the mission to actually get off the ground. Happy flying!