NASA Invites Public To Send A Message To Mars
May 2, 2013

NASA Wants You To Send A Message To Mars

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

NASA has announced a new campaign that will send people to Mars this year — well, at least their names and a brief message.

The space agency is inviting people to submit their names online along with a personal message for a DVD to be carried aboard the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft that will be launched later this year.

The DVD will carry every name submitted and three brief accompanying messages that are to be chosen by an online poll as a part of NASA´s Going to Mars campaign. The deadline for all submissions is July 1.

"The Going to Mars campaign offers people worldwide a way to make a personal connection to space, space exploration, and science in general, and share in our excitement about the MAVEN mission," said Stephanie Renfrow of the MAVEN Education and Public Outreach program, which is being coordinated at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP).

In addition to having their names aboard the Mars-bound craft, participants will be able to print a certificate of appreciation as a memento of their involvement with the MAVEN program.

"This new campaign is a great opportunity to reach the next generation of explorers and excite them about science, technology, engineering and math," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from CU/LASP. "I look forward to sharing our science with the worldwide community as MAVEN begins to piece together what happened to the Red Planet's atmosphere."

"This mission will continue NASA's rich history of inspiring and engaging the public in spaceflight in ongoing Mars exploration," added David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

In April NASA announced the integration of the final instrument on the MAVEN craft, the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS).

"The NGIMS team is delighted to provide this instrument to the MAVEN mission which will help reveal the composition and structure of the upper atmosphere of Mars and contribute to our understanding of the long-term changes in the atmosphere of Mars," said NGIMS lead scientist Paul Mahaffy.

The instrument was installed so that it can be oriented independently of MAVEN.“¯The NGIMS instrument is designed to record the composition of neutral and ionized gases in Mars´ upper atmosphere as the spacecraft dips in and out of it. As the craft passes through the atmosphere during each orbit, NGIMS will coordinate with other MAVEN instruments to determine how and why the Red Planet is losing its atmospheric gases.

The launch date for MAVEN is set at November 18, 2013 and its launch window extends through to December 7. After launch, the craft is expected to complete its ten-month journey by entering into an elliptical orbit over 90 miles above the planet´s surface.

By studying gas loss and the atmosphere above Mars, NASA said in a statement that it expects to learn more about“¯the “martian climate, geologic, and geochemical conditions over time, all of which are important in understanding whether Mars had an environment able to support life.”