Solar Wind Strips Martian Atmosphere

Humans still have a long way to go before we can set foot on planet Mars.

Aside from the need for more data when it comes to the planet's geological makeup, humans also need to prepare physically for the extreme conditions of the alien planet. NASA, however, is offering a way for anyone to "reach" the Red Planet as early as next year.

The U.S. space agency recently opened an opportunity for the general public to send their names, have them etched on microchips and get sent to Planet Mars via NASA's 2020 rover. This marketing endeavor represents the initial phase of humanity's journey to the Red Planet and a way for man to do a "round trip" campaign on another planet. NASA's 2020 rover is expected to launch in July 2020 and land on Mars by February 2021.

Another interesting tidbit is that the names will be etched using technology from the Microdevices Laboratory at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Using an electron beam, the names will be etched on a silicon chip with text smaller than one-thousandth the width of a human hair. This means that about a million names can be put into a dime-sized microchip.

NASA's 2020 rover will play a crucial role in Mars exploration. It is assigned to search for past or existing microbial life, give more insight on Mars' surface and atmosphere and even bring back samples of Martian soil to Earth. The rover is expected to be one of NASA's most significant tools to pave the way for human exploration of Earth's neighbor. Getting your name to tag along the journey is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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

UBTPOTY2018 Pictures of the week
7 February 2018: Members of the AMADEE-18 Mars simulation mission wear spacesuits while conducting scientific experiments during a simulation in Oman's Dhofar desert in a collaboration between the Austrian Space Forum and the Oman National Steering Committee, preparing for future human Mars missions Karim Sahib/AFP

Participants whose name will be chosen will also get a souvenir boarding pass and a symbolic "frequent flyer" points. This marketing drive is NASA's way of getting the public involved and interested in the space agency's ongoing mission to both the Moon and Mars.

To further get people interested in the agency's journey, NASA would give away "miles" (or kilometers) for every "flight," with its own digital mission patches that are available online. The same campaign was done for NASA's InSight launch, wherein more than 2 million names were brought along for the journey. Participants were awarded 300 million frequent flyer miles.

Those interested to submit their names have until September 30 this year to join. Click here to submit your names.

This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.