Arabs on Mars: NASA pays tribute to some famous names
On Monday, a spaceship will land on Mars carrying a chip that bears the names of 15,000 people from around the world including several prominent Arabs.
The spaceship, launched by NASA, is the most advanced compared to its predecessors and is expected to achieve substantial scientific discoveries, said Essam Heggy, member of the Radar Science Group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a prominent planetary scientist.
“The spaceship will explore the possibility of finding water on Mars and the way this would reflect on the possibility of finding water in the desert,” he told Al Arabiya.
“This is issue is of extreme importance to Arabs in particular.”
Heggy, 37, is a member of a project that looks for water in deserts as well as the north and south poles. Kuwait, Italy, and NASA are taking part in this project. The size of the spaceship, called Curiosity, is the same as a small car. It weighs 900 kilograms and it cost two billion and $500,000.
As for the electronic chip, Heggy explained, people who work in NASA put on it the names they believe should be honored in the future when visitors to Mars find them.
“Those who find the chip will be keen on knowing more about the people whose names are written and in this way NASA will have paid them tribute.”
Heggy refrained from mentioning the names he or any of his colleagues chose to put on the chip, but said that there are prominent Arabs, some dead and some still alive.
“Anyway, NASA will reveal all the names some time soon.”
According to Heggy, taking names to outer space is a tradition NASA has been observing as part of its initiative to allow the community to be part of space activities.
“Suggestions for names to be placed on such chips are open on NASA’s website.”
The spaceship runs on six wheels and could work continuously for two years. The mission of Curiosity is discovering whether there is or was any kind of life on Mars and whether whatever life is there is enough to support the growth of germ life even in its most basic form.
Curiosity is also a laboratory robot that was launched by NASA in November. The robot is equipped with the most advanced equipment including drills with cameras that penetrate rocks and extract samples to be sent back to earth for testing.
It is also quipped with injection laser diode that can reach rocks up to seven meters far and which examines the surrounding environment and investigates the possible presence of the methane particles, usually associated with the presence life.
A video launched before Curiosity took off imitates the stages through which the trip would go until it lands on Mars. The spaceship’s entry into Mars’s airspace is considered one of the most challenging stages of the trip. In addition to the fact that this will be done at a speed of 20,000 kilometers/hour, this spaceship is much heavier than the ones which preceded it and that is why a whole new landing system had to devised.
The spaceship will be attached with suspension lines to a parachute that is designed to absorb the shock resulting from collision with the surface of Mars.
The communication from Curiosity will be sent to earth through two satellites rotating around Mars and each message would take 14 minutes to be delivered. This is the same time required to send a message from the control rooms back to the spaceship.