NASA Will Write Your Name On A Mars Rover And Send It Into Space

Humans won't be stepping foot on Mars for a few years to come -- but you can put your name down for the next best thing.

In preparation for the Mars 2020 rover mission, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has invited the public to submit their names and collect a "boarding pass" for the red planet.

As it does with many of its exploratory missions, the space agency will include the names of space fans onboard the new Mars rover, due to depart Earth in July next year.

Until September 30, you can fill out a quick online form and your name will be etched onto a silicon chip with an electron beam.

But before you get too excited -- we're talking lines of text just 75 nanometers wide, one-thousandth the width of a human hair.

At that size, about one million names will fit on the coin-sized chip. Just over 140,000 people have sent in their details since applications opened on Tuesday.

Just imagine this souvenir boarding pass with your name on it, not mine.

"As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"It's an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighbouring planet, and even the origins of life itself."

READ MORENASA'S Parker Solar Probe Is Off To The Sun With Me On Board

READ MORETouchdown! NASA InSight Has Landed On Mars

The 2020 rover will search for signs of past microbial life on Mars, study the planet's climate and geology, and collect samples of rock and soil.

It will also assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers, giving scientists a better understanding of the planet's habitability.

The car-sized rover weighs about 1000 kilograms, and is expected to touch down on the far-away red dirt in February 2021.

The Mars 2020 Rover. Image: NASA

Sending names up with its rovers and spacecraft has become a tradition of NASA.

More than 2.4 million names were included on two chips placed onboard the InSight lander, which touched down on Mars in November last year.

Meanwhile, a memory card containing more than 1.1 million names is currently orbiting the Sun on the Parker Solar Probe.

The plaque carrying the memory card installed on the Parker Solar Probe. Image: NASA

The probe was launched in August, beginning its historic mission to get closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it. After swooping through our star's atmosphere 24 times, it will -- quite literally -- fly too close the Sun and burn up.

While the names onboard the Parker probe won't live on forever, there is every chance future explorers will meet the 2020 Rover again.

Here's hoping they can read really, really, really tiny writing.