Without doubt, currently, Mars is the most popular destination in deep space. Nowadays, people have started to count the days when they will finally be able to visit the Red Planet, but this date may not be right around the corner. However, Mars lovers should not be disappointed because NASA has another option to you on Martian soil quicker.
Back in 2014, NASA premiered their program known as Frequent Flyer. However, this does not mean that the space agency is giving out free miles for rocket travel like a credit card perk. As an opening for the program, NASA called the public to submit their names and then they made a list with the names and placed it on a microchip. The microchip was put in the spacecraft Orion for a test flight. A total of 1.3 million names rode on Orion, a vehicle that will eventually take people into deep space.
The ones who entered their email address signed up automatically for frequent flyer miles, that is, NASA will notify them by email when there is another opportunity to put their name in space. After the submission of your name and email address, NASA sends you a mock boarding pass that you can freely share on social media.
In case you missed your chance to get on board on the Orion, there are other chances of going into space without leaving your house. Namely, NASA is planning to send the InSight lander to Mars in 2018 with 2 microchips of symbolic passengers. The names will be accepted until the 1st of November 2017.
As of this writing, 1,209,387 people had submitted their name to ride on the InSight mission. That total combines more than 800,000 people who signed up two years ago plus additional name-travelers drawn by the new announcement of a second chip. It’s unclear yet whether NASA will cap the total number of names it accepts.
NASA also allows you to see where other hopeful Mars travelers hail from. The bulk of those names come from the United States, the origin of 340,865 names, or more than one one-thousandth of the country’s population. All told, more than 220 countries or territories appear on their ship manifest. But assume there are some high jinks involved, since that list includes a separate line for Puerto Rico, which is part of the U.S., and more than 40 people each from Antarctica and Vatican City.North Korea, where most citizens can’t access the Internet, claims more than 200 names.
In addition to the “boarding pass,” NASA is also tallying the “frequent flier miles” earned by individual participants: InSight is good for more than 300 million miles, but there’s no word yet if you can cash them in for “My name went to Mars and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” souvenirs.