Modern advances in nonvolatile memory storage can now pack a huge amount of data in a very little space and volume. Everyday consumers can now buy a microSD card representing this advance. One of the ways NASA has taken advantage of this is offering a program where people can submit their names to be carried onboard spacecraft in the form of digital data stored on a tiny flash memory chip.
Spaceflight is still very expensive, with every gram of mass and cubic centimeter of volume carefully planned and allocated. But with flash memory chips so small and light, NASA has decided it offers enough returns on publicity to be worth carrying onboard. Such programs award social media exposure and free coverage like this very blog post!
NASA JPL’s Mars 2020 program, the most visible component of which is a not-yet-named rover successor to Curiosity, will be a participant. There will be a small flash memory chip on board with names of people who cares to submit their name via the NASA web site set up for the purpose.
I don’t care very much about having my own name on board Mars 2020, but I loved the thought of having “Sawppy Rover” as one of the names on board that actual rover heading to Mars. I’ve submitted Sawppy’s name so hopefully a few bits of digital data representing Sawppy will accompany Mars 2020 to and travel across Martial terrain.