I am going to Mars!!!!
Pffft. Well. Close enough…for now.
If you go to the site https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/mars2020/, you, or in actuality your name, will be etched onto a silicon chip destined for an impressive interplanetary ride.
Not only will you -I mean your beautiful, intrepid and adventurous name, but who is nitpicking- launch on top of a fiery rocket, smash at blazing speeds through the Van Allen Belts, leave the magnetic field of the Earth, zoom past the Moon, and coast for nine months through the radioactive blackness of the deep space zone between Earth and Mars; you will also see the planet Mars grow large in the sight of the MSL spacecraft, burn a hole through its atmosphere, burn the heat shield to a marshmallow crisp, eject the heat shield, eject the backshell, eject the parachute and slow down to low mach speeds, before a retropropulsive bundle of rockets slows you down to a full stop in mid-air, whereupon the rover on which the chip is mounted, with a miniature nuclear power plant on its back, is lowered down from a rope onto the soil of Jezero Crater on Mars.
Finally there, you will start your mission as a passenger on the MARS 2020 rover, exploring this crater. The world space agencies, who helped build this rover, have integrated instruments with the potential to discover life.
As a bonus, the mission will carry an experimental helicopter, the size of a commercial drone, which will scout the areas the rover will traverse.
And finally, another instrument, MOXIE, will demonstrate the technology to create Oxygen from the Carbon Dioxide atmosphere, paving the way for larger iterations that will provide our future astronauts with breathable gases.
For many of you, this will be the closest you will ever get to landing on another planet of the solar system.
Not for me of course, since I am determined to go to Mars in the flesh. Although, I did recently promise a potentially co-traveling Russian friend to be remembered in all posterity as the first person to set foot on Mars. Gee-whiz, if it makes her happy. I am not the vain or jealous type. Nevertheless, if we believe Hollywood movies are scientifically accurate predictions, it is a mere matter of time before I’ll have to eat her brains out, but only after I turned into a Martian Zombie, having accidentally exposed dormant microbes or spores when drilling for water. Maybe that scenario, by similar Hollywood time-traveling logic, can entirely be prevented if she just gallantly lets me be the first. After all, aren’t men supposed to be the ones who stave off any potential danger? Did ancient chivalry stereotypes not come into being precisely to resolve this Martian scenario…in my favor?
But more importantly
Since this ride is free, and no one would have to turn into a Martian zombie, I did not hesitate to register for a second.
Ah, and in case you wonder what your terrestrial memento will look like, this is mine, my precious ticket to Mars, “my precious”, I say:
What are you waiting for? Register here.
And now that I am paying attention to it, the 2020 rover does indeed look a bit like a Martian Zombie, mumbling: “brains”, “I want to see some brains”. Well, if it helps to motivate his intelligent software in the search for (intelligent) life, good for him and good for us.