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NASA is giving out frequent flyer points to Mars

CNET logo CNET 22/5/2019 Claire Reilly
a group of people on a rocky beach: The Mars 2020 rover is set to make its way to the Red Planet in 2020.  © CNET

The Mars 2020 rover is set to make its way to the Red Planet in 2020. 

You might not have done an intensive astronaut training course, but NASA still wants you to get involved in its next mission to Mars. 

The space agency is giving regular people like you and me a chance to send their name -- etched onto a microchip -- on the Mars 2020 mission. Not only that, but if you get your John Hancock etched into the spacecraft that flies to Mars, you'll also rack up "frequent flyer" points and a souvenir boarding pass to show off to your Earth mates.

It's part of a campaign to build buzz around NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which is sending a rover to the Red Planet to search for signs of past microbial life, collect samples and study Mars' climate and geology. NASA is also billing the mission as "the initial leg of humanity's first round trip to another planet" so being part of the expedition brings significant bragging rights.

mars-2020-name-boarding-pass © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. mars-2020-name-boarding-pass

NASA has done this kind of thing before with the Orion mission and the InSight mission. On InSight, which touched down on Mars in November 2018, every one of NASA's "frequent flyers" racked up roughly 300 million miles, which certainly beats what the budget airlines back on Earth are offering.

The JPL team is busy working on the Mars 2020 rover, aiming to launch it in July 2020 ahead of a February 2021 touch down on Mars. Meanwhile, you can sign up through NASA's website to get your name on the list until Sept. 30, 2019.

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