Even though space tourism is starting to get off the ground, most of us will probably never travel to the moon, Mars or anywhere else beyond our planet for that matter. But if that’s something that tends to make you sad, there is another possibility to let a small part of you travel beyond Earth. Thanks to NASA’s “Message in a Bottle” program, all those who are interested can have their name inscribed on a microchip that will be sent into deep space. All you have to do is sign up – and be quick about it since the campaign closes on 31 December.
Maybe you’ve already heard about NASA’s Euopa Clipper mission, maybe you haven’t. In a nutshell, NASA will be launching a spacecraft all the way to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, which is located about 2.6 billion kilometers from wherever you’re reading this from. Europa is of great importance as an actual ocean is hiding beneath its frozen surface and therefore the mission will look at the subsurface ocean, the icy crust and the atmosphere to determine if the moon could support life.
Less than a year from now, NASA’s @EuropaClipper mission will set off from our spaceport for Jupiter’s ocean moon Europa – and your name can come along!— NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) November 9, 2023
See how to #SendYourName aboard the spacecraft: https://t.co/bWNe6Q7ecP pic.twitter.com/VupLS8sUHw
“The mission’s three main science objectives are to determine the thickness of the moon’s icy shell and its surface interactions with the ocean below, to investigate its composition, and to characterize its geology. The mission’s detailed exploration of Europa will help scientists better understand the astrobiological potential for habitable worlds beyond our planet”, NASA writes on its website.
But aboard the spacecraft, there will be more than just scientific instruments. Thanks to the “Message in a Bottle” campaign, everyone who’s interested can now send in their name to the icy moon. Whether or not those names will one day be discovered by extraterrestrial life or not is a different story, but the experiment sure is a unique way for space lovers to get involved in one of NASA’s programs.
Until now, 700,000 names have been gathered and you can still send in yours until the end of the year. Once the campaign is closed, technicians at the Microdevices Laboratory at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California will use an electron beam to stencil the names on a dime-size silicon microchip. Wondering if your name will be readable to the naked eye? The answer is no, as the writing is smaller than 1/1000 the width of a human hair (75 nanometers). The chip will be attached to a metal plate engraved with the original poem “In Praise of Mystery”, written by US Poet Laureate Ada Limón specifically for the mission.