March 27 (UPI) — NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is set to carry the names of 10,932,295 people to the Red Planet. The names, etched onto tiny silicon chips by an electron beam, were recently attached to an aluminum plate on the rover at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The names scheduled to be carried into space next year were submitted by participants in NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign. Silicon chips featuring the essays of 155 finalists from NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest were also affixed to the aluminum plate, which was mounted on the rover’s aft crossbeam. The plate features an etched illustration of Mars and Earth linked by the rays of the sun.
Earlier this week, engineers began configuring the rover for its ride on the Atlas V rocket.
“Steps included stowing the robotic arm, lowering and locking in place the remote sensing mast and high-gain antenna, and retracting its legs and wheels,” according to NASA.
As of now, the rover’s July 2020 launch date hasn’t been delayed. The rover is scheduled to touch down on Mars in early 2021.
In addition to almost 11 million names, the Mars Perseverance rover will also carry a miniature helicopter to the Red Planet, which could help the rover locate interesting scientific destinations.
The helicopter, which was installed on the rover last summer, is primarily a proof-of-concept experiment. It it fails to take to the air, the scientific goals of the Mars 2020 mission will not be inhibited. If it succeeds, scientists and engineers will be able to integrate second-generation copters into future scientific missions.
Like its predecessors, the newest Mars rover will study the Red Planet’s geologic and sedimentary structures to better understand the planet’s watery past.