(Your name) Can Go to Mars

The Hubble Space Telescope snapped this sharp picture of Mars in March 1997. Credit:NASA

In 2007, The Planetary Society will send a specialized silica-glass DVD to Mars aboard Phoenix, NASA’s newest Scout mission, led by Principal Investigator Peter Smith at the University of Arizona. The disk, which is attached to the deck of the Phoenix lander, will include "Visions of Mars," a collection of 19th and 20th century stories, essays, and art inspired by the Red Planet. The disk also includes special features, such as the famous 1938 radio broadcast of HG Wells’ classic, "War of the Worlds."

People around the world can add their own names (or those of family and friends) to the archival disk that features the works of such visionaries as The Planetary Society’s co-founder Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Percival Lowell, and many more. The Planetary Society is collecting up to several million names to send on the Mars-bound DVD. Visit The Planetary Society’s website http://planetary.org to fly a name to Mars.

The deadline for submitting names is February 1, 2007.

Phoenix will be the first lander to explore the Martian arctic, landing near 70 degrees north latitude. Designed to search for and study water ice, the spacecraft is a fixed lander with a suite of advanced instruments and a robotic arm that can dig up to a meter into the soil. The Phoenix team hopes to uncover clues in the icy soil of the Martian arctic about the history of near surface ice and its potential for habitability. The mission will return valuable data that can help astrobiologists understand the potential for past life on Mars.

Launching in August 2007, Phoenix will land in May 2008. The DVD will also include a greeting and essay from the mission Principal Investigator, Peter Smith, and additional information about the Phoenix mission.

The Phoenix Lander lowers itself onto Mars using a set of powerful thrusters. No airbags for this tricky touch down on the red planet.
Image Credit: JPL/Corby Waste

"Since the DVD will appear in some of the calibration images that Phoenix sends back from the surface, those who send their names will, in some sense, be able to see themselves on Mars!" said Bruce Betts, the Planetary Society’s Director of Projects. "Well, sort of"

The special disk should last for at least many hundreds of years on Mars, plenty of time for a future generation to discover and read the Red Planet’s first library. Disk contents represent 20 nations and cultures.

Sending this DVD from Earth aboard Phoenix will be The Planetary Society’s second attempt to cast this particular "message in a bottle" into the currents of space. "Visions of Mars" was created by the Society and placed aboard Russia’s Mars 96 spacecraft. That mission failed shortly after launch. The Planetary Society has also helped collect names for several other space missions, including Stardust, the Mars Exploration Rovers, Deep Impact, Mars Pathfinder, and Cassini.

Anyone may submit names to The Planetary Society to fly to Mars, including – in addition to their own – the names of children and grandchildren, classmates, friends, loved ones who have passed, or even a favorite family pet. Once a name is entered on The Planetary Society website, a certificate, stating that name’s inclusion on the Phoenix Mars DVD, can be downloaded.

Related Web Pages

Digging Deep
Returning to Sample Mars
A New Mars
Managing Mars Missions
Exploring Earth and Mars