The NASA rover Perseverance, which landed successfully on Mars two days ago, brought with it the names of 27,550 Belgians.
The Belgian well-wishers were among the more than 10 million names gathered from all over the world, and contained in three chips, each the size of a fingernail, attached to a plate inside the rover.
Between May and September 2019, the US space administration NASA invited members of the public to take part in the historic mission by sending in their names. More than 10 million did so, including a surprisingly large number of Turkish people – 2.5 million in all.
Exactly 27,550 Belgians joined in, including the entire sixth year of primary schools in Boutersem near Leuven.
Everyone who signed up received a ‘boarding pass’ as a souvenir.
But interplanetary rovers, it turns out, are like buses: there will be another one along shortly.
NASA is now inviting entries from anyone who would like to be represented on board a future mission to the red planet, at a date later to be decided. Five million names have already been gathered.