The NASA rover is scheduled to land on Mars on February 18, 2021, about seven months after blasting off from Florida, US. In the months leading to the launch, NASA ran its Send Your Name to Mars campaign, asking members of the public to sign up for Mars 2020 “boarding passes”.

A total of 10,932,295 people signed up and their names are now permanently part of the Mars rover’s construction.

The names were stencilled onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips using an electron beam.

Alongside the names, NASA included 155 essays penned by the finalists of NASA’s Name the Rover contest.

The winner of that contest, seventh-grader Alexander Mathy from Burke, Virginia, had the honour of naming the NASA rover Perseverance.

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The silicon chips were then attached to an aluminium plate on the rover’s aft crossbeam.

A graphic on the plate pays tribute to the plaques on NASA’s Pioneer space probe.

The space agency said: “The three chips share space on the anodized plate with a laser-etched graphic depicting Earth and Mars joined by the star that gives light to both.

“While commemorating the rover that connects the two worlds, the simple illustration also pays tribute to the elegant line art plaques aboard the Pioneer spacecraft and golden records carried by Voyagers 1 and 2.

“Affixed to the centre of the rover’s aft crossbeam, the plate will be visible to cameras on Perseverance’s mast.”

The NASA rover is pencilled in to launch towards Mars in July.

It will search for signs of past microbial life

NASA

After landing in Jezero Crater, Perseverance will scour the Red Planet for signs of life past and present.

The rover will also leave in its wake geocached rock samples for a possible retrieval mission.

But there has been some concern the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could have an impact on Perseverance’s launch schedule.

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NASA is, however, positive the Mars 2020 mission is on track to launch later this year.

NASA said: “Currently, the coronavirus has not impacted the Mars Perseverance rover launch schedule.”

The rover will be mounted to an Atlas V rocket, which will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA said: “The Perseverance rover is a robotic scientist weighing just under 2,300 pounds (1,043kg).

“It will search for signs of past microbial life, characterise Mars’ climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and help pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.”

Does NASA believe there is life on Mars?

Scientists are certain the Red Planet once resembled a young Earth, with a hot and humid climate, thick atmosphere and running water.

Based on how life developed here on Earth, water is considered a crucial building block of life.

NASA said: “It is likely, though not certain, that if life ever evolved on Mars, it did so in the presence of a long-standing supply of water.

“On Mars, we will therefore search for evidence of life in areas where liquid water was once stable, and below the surface where it still might exist today.”

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