Join Me On Mars - InformationWeek

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8/21/2015
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Join Me On Mars

NASA wants to take your name to Mars so you can be a part of the next great phase of space exploration.

10 NASA Images That Will Inspire You
10 NASA Images That Will Inspire You
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

David Wagner is going to Mars. No, not me. Only my name. I haven't been picked as an astronaut on a special mission (though I'd go if chosen). I'm part of NASA's Frequent Flyer program, which allows me to put my name, along with hundreds of thousands of others, on a microchip that will be sent to Mars on the March 2016 InSight mission which will study the Red Planet's geological history.

Here is my boarding pass. I'm earning over 297 million miles this trip:

(Image: NASA)

(Image: NASA)

The Frequent Flyer Program allows ordinary citizens to get a small part of the excitement of the space journey, and put their name on another planet. The first Frequent Flyer mission was during the Orion flight test mission, and more than 1.3 million people signed up to have their name imprinted on a microchip and sent into space for that mission. There are three more flights after InSight.

The first is Exploration Mission 1, which will be an unmanned test flight of the craft expected to send people to Mars. It will launch in September 2018 and, if all goes to plan, it will go around the moon before coming back.

The next is the Mars 2020 mission, which will send a rover to Mars that might even include a small helicopter to fly over the surface.

[ And there other cool tests about landing and flying on Mars. Read NASA's Flying Saucer One Step Closer to Mars. ]

The final mission is the Asteroid Redirect mission which, as you can guess, is intended to redirect an asteroid both as potential defense and also for potential future mining or construction efforts in space. That mission is also scheduled for 2020.

NASA hopes by connecting you to its programs, you'll take a more active interest in space. Think of it like having your name on the donor wall of a museum or on the bricks of a landmark like these bricks that Disneyland sold outside of its gates for many years:

(Image: Loren Javier via Flickr)

(Image: Loren Javier via Flickr)

Except your name will live on another planet. In fact, your name might be in another planet. InSight will use sophisticated instruments to delve beneath the Mars surface with seismometers, heat probes, and other equipment to determine the composition and makeup of Mars's interior. NASA hopes it will advance research into how planets are formed, especially planets like our own. Here is video giving more detail:

This sounds like one heck of a plot to a science fiction movie. Imagine InSight lands and the signals it sends deep into the crust of Mars wake the long-dormant intelligence that has lived beneath the surface for ages waiting for Mars to be habitable again. The aliens wake to find the probe and the microchip, which they're able to decode. Then, the aliens decide it is a list of all those responsible for waking them from their slumber, and come to Earth to hunt us all down.

Spooky, right?

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover takes a selfie
(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover takes a selfie

(Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Of course, the more likely event is that the chip will be damaged on the surface of the planet by the impact or the radiation or exposure to the elements. Or, after the two-year planned life of the mission is over, the probe will be turned off, and it will slowly rot. Our best hope is that one day an Earthling will land on Mars, pick up the shattered remains of the InSight probes and retrieve the chip.

No matter what, all of us who sign up are passengers together on a trip to Mars. Our names, if not our bodies, will touch the surface of another planet. For free. NASA isn't even charging us the $50-$100 that most amusement parks or other landmarks charge for such a service. Sounds like a pretty good deal for a chance to be a part of humanity's exploration of space.

What do you think? Poor marketing gimmick or a real chance to be involved? Will any of you join me on this mission? Collect your Boarding Pass and mission patch here, and tell me in the comments section below that you'll be joining me.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 1:22:40 PM
"We are not alone"
As an astronomy enthusiast, I think this NASA program is pretty cool, since it's trying to create awareness of the awesomeness that is space travel and space discovery.

I think an even better marketting campaing would be something like "be the first martian selfie".

I wonder how much the call rates will be from Mars to my dad in Miami? Might not need to worry about as long as I have a Wi Fi hot spot :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
8/21/2015 | 1:30:36 PM
Re: "We are not alone"
@Mejiac- The toughest part is that 3-20 minute communications delay (depending on where the planets are in orbit and what you are using). you send a selfie and it takes 40 minutes to get the emoji response back. :)
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 1:48:14 PM
Re: "We are not alone"
@David,

So a tin can telephone wouldn't be an option? (how many miles of string would we need?)
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 5:29:17 PM
Re: "We are not alone"
I signed up. But I'm really more interested in The Moon. I want to open up the first extraterrestrial liquor store. I plan on calling it "Lunar Liquors".
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 9:44:09 PM
Re: "We are not alone"
@Gary, Lunar Liquors is a good one. How about Moonlight Liquors?
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2015 | 11:51:23 AM
Re: "We are not alone"
I think I'm going to have to get the family to sign up for this one. It's neat thinking a little data chip with my name is traveling to space and landing on another planet. Too cute, and a great way to get my kids on another space adventure learning kick. As for liquor stores, How about "Martian Moonshine"?
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 1:24:41 PM
Good to Go
@dave -- very interesting.

>> What do you think? Poor marketing gimmick or a real chance to be involved? 

Like it. Sounds a bit like the 3rd generation love child/offspring of the Ellis Island American Immigrant Wall of Honor (awful name, but a big thing back when they were restoring the Island)

For $150 here it is:

"The American Immigrant Wall of Honor is a permanent exhibit of individual or family names featured at Ellis Island in New York Harbor. It is the only place in the United States where an individual can honor his or her family heritage at a National Monument."
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
8/21/2015 | 1:32:14 PM
Re: Good to Go
@jastroff- Right, and its free! I almost wish NASA was charging like $5 for it as a way of offestting some budget cuts. But I'm glad they see the value of getting people excited without trying to charge them.I plan on signing up for all the remaining missions and I'm bummed i didn't sign up for the first so I'm missing a mission patch.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 1:47:11 PM
Re: Good to Go
Hopefully i get bumped to first class on this flight now that i have my ticket.

I personally love these things.  I sign up not just for myself, but also for a few friends who are just as excited as me for these little ways to be involved in space exploration.

I love the idea of they should charge $5 for something like this.  Not only would people still sign up (if i had a nice, official looking boarding pass that was mailed to my house or to a friend as a gift, how cool would that be?!), but as you mentioned, could create a new source of funding, even if it is small increments at a time.

With all the current crowdfunding around space right now, maybe it's just me, or maybe others feel just as excited, it's so cool to feel personally connected, even if in a small way, to the new space age that is emerging.

 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 7:30:13 PM
Re: Good to Go
@David, I feel that it is a real chance to be involved. It is important because space endeavors have changed the world in many unexpected ways. For instance, solar voltaic technology gained a huge boost due to space based satellites. The impact of this has been realized up to a small extent at the moment but, in another 100 to 150 years as fossil fuels is exhausted the benefits of space research will become clearer.

As the involvement of the public increases it will help the budgetary concerns of NASA.    
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
8/21/2015 | 9:42:57 PM
Re: Good to Go
$50-$100 is worth the risk of purchasing the chip, even if it rots away.
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
8/22/2015 | 3:00:22 AM
I'm going to Mars
I have my boarding pass! I take off on March 4, 2016, and not coming back.
According to the NASA site, 211396 people already signed up for the Insight Mission to Mars. In case someone wonders, the last day to register is September 8, 2015.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
8/22/2015 | 11:22:06 AM
Re: I'm going to Mars
I will pass on my name travelling to mars. I think this is a good marketing campaign.  If they would have said that they would use my name as the new name of Mars cities. i wouldn't mind.  Such as Pedropolis or Mount Pedro. In that case, we will need more planets to conquer because everyone would want their own city name after themself.
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