Around 1,38,899, people from India are Mars-bound. They have ‘booked’ a flight to the Red Planet via Nasa’s InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission slated for launch on May 5, 2018. Nasa states that those who submitted their names were provided online ‘boarding passes’ for the mission.
The names are being etched on a silicon wafer microchip using an electron beam to form letters with lines one one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. This chip will then be attached to the top hull of the lander.
Several Indians responded to Nasa’s call for names for the Mars mission. The total number of names received by Nasa from all over the world is 2,429,807.
According to Nasa on Wednesday, India ranks third in the global list with regard to the number of names submitted for the Mars mission.
The first is the US with 6,76,773 names followed by China with 2,62,752 names. India stands at number three
Space experts point out that US leading the list is not surprising since it is, after all, a Nasa mission. However, they do say that the fact that India is next to China is a matter of significance. They attribute India being ranked among the first three nations to two factors: the excitement and interest in Mars flights triggered by India’s ground-breaking Mangalyaan mission, and the overall strengthening of India-US space ties.
Andrew Good of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) told TOIthat the deadline to submit names was last week and “we are no longer accepting submissions”.
Slated for landing near the Mars equator on November 26, 2018, it is a 720-day mission, which will gather data on the Martian interior by monitoring Marsquakes.
Nasa states that InSight’s role is not only to study Mars, but also to gain broader insight into the formation of rocky planets in the entire solar system.