"As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, from NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on September 19, 2019

There are 11 days to go before the final boarding call to have your name on NASA’s Mars 2020 rover before it launches to the Red Planet.

As Hollywood movie star Brad Pitt discovered if you supply your name you receive a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points. As a VIP Pitt visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on 6 September.

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The 30 September deadline for NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign allows NASA sufficient time to stencil the submitted names — over 9.4 million so far — on a chip that will be affixed to the Mars 2020 rover.

The space rocket, which will contain the rover, will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, between 17 July and 5 August next year and the rover is expected to be lowered down into the Jezero Crater on Mars in February 2021. The Mars 2020 mission will be the first to look for signs of past life on the Red Planet.

Rover, a robotic scientist weighing 2,300 pounds (1,040 kilograms), will search for signs of past life, characterise the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “It’s an exciting time for NASA as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighbouring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for NASA.

Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, the US space agency aims to establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028.