Space enthusiasts have a unique chance to etch their names in a spacecraft destined for Jupiter’s Moon, Europa. The names will be added to a microchip that will ride aboard the spacecraft, as per American space agency NASA.
People are invited to engrave their names next to a poem by US poet Ada Limon as part of the “Message in a Bottle” project. The robotic spacecraft Europa Clipper, which runs on solar power, will have microchips with enrolled names laser inscribed on them. With a launch date in October 2024, the spacecraft will travel 1.8 billion miles (2.6 billion kilometres) over the course of around six years, providing a once-in-a-lifetime chance for individuals to participate in interplanetary exploration.
There have been over 700,000 names submitted so far. Once all the names have been collected, technicians at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California’s Microdevices Laboratory will use an electron beam to stencil them onto a silicon microchip the size of a dime. Every line of text is less than 75 nanometers, or 1/1000th the width of a human hair.
“The chip will be attached to a metal plate engraved with the original poem ‘In Praise of Mystery’ written by U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limon to celebrate the mission. Riding on the exterior of the spacecraft, the poem and names will be like a message in a bottle as they make about 50 close flybys of the ocean world,” the space agency added.
During these orbits, the mission’s research equipment will collect data on Europa’s atmosphere, icy crust, and subsurface ocean in an effort to understand whether or not the moon could support life. The mission will travel half-billion miles (800 million kilometres).
NASA further stated that the project “draws from NASA’s long tradition of shipping inspirational messages on spacecraft that have explored our solar system and beyond.” By delivering a time capsule with sounds and images that represent the richness of life on Earth, the project hopes to ignite people’s imaginations, just as the Voyager spacecraft did in 1977.
Meanwhile, Ada Limon read her poem for the Europa Clipper mission during an event of the space agency at the Library of Congress in Washington in June. The original poem, titled ‘In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa’ connects two water worlds – Earth and Europa.
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