NASA has added a feature to its latest Mars rover that includes the names of over 10.9 million people from different parts of the world. The agency noted that the launch of the Mars 2020 mission will still proceed this year despite the current COVID-19 outbreak.

The agency's newest robotic rover is called Perseverance. It will spearhead NASA's upcoming mission to the Red Planet this year.

Sending Names To Mars

Perseverance rover
A placard commemorating NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign was installed on the Perseverance Mars rover on March 16, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center. Three silicon chips (upper left corner) were stenciled with 10,932,295 names and the essays from 155 finalists in NASA's "Name the Rover" contest. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Last year, NASA launched a campaign that provided people from around the world the opportunity to to submit their names to the agency's database. Throughout the course of the campaign, a total of 10,932,295 submitted their names.

NASA then took these names and used an electron beam to stencil them onto three silicon chips that are about as big as a fingernail. These chips were then mounted on an anodized plate that was attached to Perseverance's aft crossbeam. Aside from the names, NASA also included stenciled versions of 155 finalist essays that were submitted during the agency's Name the Rover contest.

Perseverance Rover's Tribute

Mars 2020 Rover
This artist's concept shows the sky-crane maneuver during the descent of NASA's Curiosity rover to the Martian surface. The Mars mission launching in 2020 would leverage the design of this landing system and other aspects of the Mars Science Laboratory architecture. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA noted that the anodized plate features a laser-etched graphic of Mars and Earth joined together by the beams of light emitted by a star. According to the agency, this design has a special meaning as it pays tribute to past missions.

"While commemorating the rover that connects the two worlds, the simple illustration also pays tribute to the elegant line art of the plaques aboard the Pioneer spacecraft and golden records carried by Voyagers 1 and 2," NASA stated. "Affixed to the center of the rover's aft crossbeam, the plate will be visible to cameras on Perseverance's mast."

Mars 2020 Mission Schedule

The Perseverance rover is scheduled to launch via the Mars 2020 mission on July 17. For the mission, the robotic rover will be placed aboard the Atlas V rocket. The rover is expected to reach Mars on February 18, 2021. It will focus on investigating the Jezero crater for possible signs of life.

According to NASA, the schedule of the mission's launch has not yet been affected by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which means the agency will most likely proceed with the event in July. In the past couple of weeks, NASA has already implemented telecommuting operations for its employees after confirmed cases of COVID-19 emerged at two of its facilities.