By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor
NASA has given people another chance to fly — their names — on a mission to Mars launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the spring.
The system’s website generates a mock boarding pass for the mission.
In 2015, nearly 827,000 people signed up to add their names to a silicon microchip onboard the robotic spacecraft.
NASA is now adding a second microchip, giving members of the public another chance to send their names to the Red Planet.
“Mars continues to excite space enthusiasts of all ages,” said Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
“This opportunity lets them become a part of the spacecraft that will study the inside of the Red Planet.”
This fly-your-name opportunity comes with “frequent flier” points reflecting an individual’s personal participation in NASA’s exploration of Mars, with points spanning multiple missions over decades.
Participants who sent their names on the previous InSight opportunity in 2015 can download a “boarding pass” and see their “frequent flier” miles.
InSight — it stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — will be the first mission to explore Mars’ deep interior, the space agency said.
Information collected about the interior of Mars also is expected improve scientists’ understanding about the formation and evolution of all rocky planets, including Earth.
InSight is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas V rocket Space Launch Complex-3 from south Vandenberg in May.
The lander is expected to touch down on the Red Planet in November 2018.
In later 2015, a design flaw forced NASA and its partners to abandon a 2016 launch attempt, make the needed fixes and wait for the next shot at reaching the Red Planet.
As a result of planetary geometry, Mars launch opportunities occur about 26 months apart and last only a few weeks.
The Mars launch is expected to be the first interplanetary mission from Vandenberg, where most blastoffs send satellites to low-earth orbit or test unarmed missiles.
However, Vandenberg did conduct a lunar orbital mission in the 1990s, sending the Clementine craft to space in 1994.
Formally dubbed the Deep Space Program Science Experiment, the craft was a joint project between NASA and what’s now called the Missile Defense Agency.