More than 1.3 lakh Indian space enthusiasts have submitted their names to NASA to be etched on the U.S. space agency's mission to Mars next year.
India stands at No. 3 with 1,38,899 people, after the U.S. (6,76,773) and China (2,62,752 names). The American space agency received 2,429,807 names in all from across the world.
Last month, NASA invited people to send their names for the InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission to Mars. The names are being etched on a silicon wafer microchip using an electron beam to form letters with lines one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. The chip will be affixed to the InSight lander deck and will remain on Mars forever.
"Mars continues to excite space enthusiasts of all ages," said Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission's principal investigator, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "This opportunity lets them become a part of the spacecraft that will study the inside of the Red Planet," said Banerdt.
The ‘send your name to Mars’ initiative is something we have done for a number of major NASA missions in the past – not just for Mars missions. It’s just a fun outreach activity that lets people engage with the mission.
The deadline to submit names was last week.
Space enthusiasts who signed up shared their downloadable "boarding passes" on social media, complete with the total number of flight miles they have collected by participating in engagement initiatives for other Mars missions.
InSight, scheduled to land on Mars on November 26, next year, will be the first mission to look deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet's interior by listening for marsquakes.
These quakes travel through geologic material at different speeds and give scientists a glimpse of the composition and structure of the planet's inside.
InSight's role is not only to study Mars, but also to gain broader insight into the formation of rocky planets in the entire solar system.