COVID-19 memorial, 11 million names and other things that will ride aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is fitted with sophisticated scientific apparatus, tasked with collection rock samples from the Red Planet for research on Earth. However, those are not the only things that the rover is carrying. NASA has revealed that its rover is also carrying symbols, mottos and objects that range from everything practical to things that are playful as well.

According to a statement by NASA, the ‘extra’ baggage the rover is carrying is part of a tradition going back to the early space age. It even has its own NASA lingo called ‘festooning’.

As per NASA, a plaque aboard Pioneer 10 and 11 displays a man and a woman from distance spacefarers who might find the spacecraft. Similarly, the Golden Record aboard Voyager 1 and 2 serves a similar purpose. Rovers Opportunity and Spirit contain metal from the wreckage of the Twin Towers on 9/11 whole, Spirit also contains a memorial to the crew of Space Shuttle Columbia.

Speaking about it, Jim Bell, from, Arizona State University, who helped festoon almost all of NASA’s Mars rovers states that the embellishments add artistic elements on missions that are otherwise filled with science and tech, along with lasting tributes to colleagues who helped create the way for human exploration of space.

 COVID-19 memorial, 11 million names and other things that will ride aboard NASAs Perseverance Mars rover

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life in and around the Jezero crater. Image: NASA/JPL

Here are the things that are inside the Perseverance Rover:

Mastcam-Z Made You Look

It is Perseverance’s main eyes, the instrument’s primary calibration target, which doubles as a sundial for educational purposed, includes colour and grayscale swatches. The sundial also displays small line drawings of early life forms on earth including cyanobacteria, a fern and a dinosaur as well as a man and woman similar to those on the Pioneer plaques and the Golden Record. There is also a bonus inscription, “Are we alone? We came here to look for signs of life, and to collect samples of Mars for study on Earth. To those who follow, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery.”

Finding SHERLOC

People often use a GPS receiver of mobile device to hide and seek container. This is called Geocaching. Now there is a special geocache aboard Perseverance making it one of the remotes ones of its kind. Made of helmet-visor material and inscribed with the address of the instrument’s fictional detective namesake, its part of the calibration target for SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals), an instrument on the end of Perseverance’s 7-foot-long (3-meter-long) robotic arm.

SuperCam’s Mars Meteorite

SuperCam is a laser instrument that zaps rocks and “soil,” then measures the resulting vapour to determine their composition. This piece of rock on the SuperCam made a roundtrip voyage to the ISS before researchers added it to Perseverance.

COVID Memorial on Mars

The rover team, in an attempt to recognise the challenges faced by the international community and honour the healthcare workers risking their lives in the pandemic have included a special aluminium plate on the rover’s left side, bearing an image of planet Earth supported by the Rod of Asclepius, an ancient Greek symbol displaying a snake-entwined rod to symbolize healing and medicine.

11 million names

Since the time of Spirit and Opportunity, JPL has been providing people around the world with a chance to ‘fly’ to Mars by sending their names there. Perseverance is carrying three small chips stencilled with 10.9 million names.