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Covid Memorial to Over 10 Million Names: Hidden Gems Aboard NASA's Perseverance Rover to Mars

Photo on right credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech /LANL/CNES/ESA/Thomas Pesquet, Photo on left credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Photo on right credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech /LANL/CNES/ESA/Thomas Pesquet, Photo on left credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Perseverance rover is on its way to Mars right now.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is on its way to Mars right now, and is probably closer to the Red Planet than Earth at the moment. While the world waits with bated breaths for the rover to land successfully on Mars, NASA decided to treat us with information about five “hidden gems" that are travelling to Mars aboard the rover.

The tradition of sending such items, ranging from useful to fun, is not new. In fact, there’s now a term to describe it — festooning. The idea is to basically send along a few items, which can either be useful to those who will be visiting the planet later or as a nod to whatever is happening on Earth — it could be something deeply symbolic or meaningful. For instance, wreckage from the Twin Towers following the 9/11 terrorist attack in US was taken onboard the rovers Opportunity and Spirit.

Perseverance is no different.

A few months ago, NASA asked people from all over the world to send in their applications if they want their names to be sent to Mars on the rover. Around 10,932,295 people obliged.

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According to reports, an electronic beam has been used to carve the names on three fingernail-sized silicon chips. A website called Autoevolution says that each name is smaller than one-thousandth the width of human hair. These chips have been attached to an aluminium plate on the rover. Apart from the 11 million names, the rover will carry names of 155 finalists in NASA’s “Name the Rover" contest in a similar fashion.

That’s not all.

The Perseverance rover took off for Mars in 2020, the year of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. According to NASA, the mission would be incomplete if it did not acknowledge the pandemic and the tireless efforts of frontline workers to fight the pandemic.

In a statement, NASA said, “The rover team wanted to recognize the challenges faced by the global community and honor the many healthcare workers who have risked their lives to help those affected by the pandemic."

The rover will be carrying a special aluminium plate which bears an image of the earth being supported by the Rod of Asclepius symbolising medicine and healing.

Sherloc is also aboard the Perseverance. No, not the detective, but a special instrument which carries a Martian meteorite, as Autoevolution states, and also a coin which can be used as a geocache target. The device also has the address of famed fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, engraved on it. Unsurprisingly, this Sherloc too has a Watson accompanying it. The device is connected to WATSON (the Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering), which can take photos for geocache fans to view and enjoy.

In November, NASA posted audio on its SoundCloud account recorded by the latest Mars rover. A microphone aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover recorded the sounds of the spacecraft as it hurtled through interplanetary space.

The rover recorded the subtle sounds of its own inner workings during the flight, while another mic aboard the rover is intended specifically to listen for the laser zaps of the SuperCam instrument. On its website, NASA explained that the sound was recorded by the mic that is devoted to capturing some or all of the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) sequence. You can also watch the trajectory of the rover with the help of Eyes on the Solar System, a web app.

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