In preparation for a potential NASA mission to Mars, consider this an extraterrestrial education, as well as a celebration to the liftoff of Perseverance.
In T-minus a few hours, the rest of the world will focus its geeked up gaze and telescopes to the launch of Perseverance, the latest rover to set to explore the mysterious red planet in our solar system. With 314 million miles of interplanetary space and 7 minutes of terror to safely descend onto the surface of the Jezero Crater, the NASA mission is set to search for astrobiological evidence of ancient microbial life, as well as carry with it a scientific bounty of possibilities aboard the ninth spacecraft destined for Mars. Apart from exploring and navigating the terrain of Earth’s neighbor, collecting core samples of rock and regolith (aka broken rocks and dust), Perseverance carries with it 10.9 million names etched on a microchip aboard on top of the rover, all of which were invited and listed to join the liftoff in what still stands to be an exciting capacity. Also, apart from this engagement, Perseverance also features a 3-by-5 inch aluminum plate installed on the left side of its chassis, bearing the symbol of Earth with a serpent intertwined around a rod to represent the global medical community—a fitting tribute to health care workers and front liners around the world carrying on with its mission to save the world from the persistent pandemic.
“We wanted to demonstrate our appreciation for those who have put their personal well-being on the line for the good of others,” explains Matt Wallace, Perseverance deputy project manager at NASA, in a statement. “It is our hope that when future generations travel to Mars and happen upon our rover, they will be reminded that back on Earth in the year 2020 there were such people.”
An extension of living vicariously through a rigorously trained spacecraft, there is definitely a lot of drummed up anticipation and excitement to this particular launch of the mission to Mars. At least this way, some will have already lived their dormant dreams of becoming a galactic emissary, taking part of the complex mission to find signs of ancient life in the mysterious red planet. While that launch is well on its way, NASA is already working towards its next expedition to Mars, opening up the Sign Up Your Name To Mars program for anyone who wants to join in on the fun and live out a fantasy of jetting off to outer space. Ahead of Perseverance setting out into space, the future NASA-led mission to Mars has already recorded 1,441,796 names as of this writing, 596,775 of which are from the Philippines. Not that we could blame the sheer number that is presumably growing in exponential increments, it looks like we really want out of this country, because Houston, we have problems. Can anyone blame us?
While the next astronomical flight out of the planet is scheduled on July 2026, the next 6 years is still quite the long wait. In the meantime, before our names get to blast off into outer space and onto Mars, here is a list of red planet pop culture moments that we should be familiar with. Who knows, if life’s trajectory sees us inhabiting it in the future, because while there is still much to learn, at least we know what to expect, right?
BRB, setting our alarms for the next NASA mission to Mars in 3, 2, 1…and we have liftoff.
Oops!…I Did It Again
The Space Between Us
Mars Needs Moms
Life On Mars
SpaceX Falcon Heavy
To enlist in the NASA Mission To Mars name sign-up program, head on over to their website for all the good stuff. Oh, and don’t forget to download your boarding pass for the July 2026 liftoff. See you there then.