Members of the public who sign up to have their names sent to Mars will get a souvenir boarding pass to print out as well. (NASA / JPL-Caltech Image)
Space fans have been sending their names to Mars and other extraterrestrial destinations for more than two decades, and it’s that time again: From now until Sept. 30, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is taking names for the Mars 2020 rover mission.
All you have to do is type your name and location into an online form on NASA’s website and hit the “Send” button. You’ll instantly get the opportunity to print out or save a souvenir boarding pass, listing more than 300 million miles’ worth of faux frequent-flier award points.
Once all the names pass muster, they’ll be handed over to JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory to be etched onto a silicon chip with an electron beam. Each line of text will be a mere 75 nanometers wide — which is less than a thousandth the thickness of a human hair.
That’s small enough to get more than a million names inscribed onto a dime-sized microchip. But even at that rate, it’s likely to take more than one chip to do the job. ...