NASA’s InSight lander has named a Martian rock that got knocked a few inches away from its original place, Rolling Stones Rock, after the famous rock and roll band of the same name. Elated by this news, the Rolling Stones members, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood, commented, “What a wonderful way to celebrate the ‘Stones No Filter‘ tour arriving in Pasadena. This is definitely a milestone in our long and eventful history. A huge thank you to everyone at NASA for making it happen.”
The impact from InSight’s thrusters as it landed on Mars rolled the rock 3 feet away, so far the only rock to roll this far due to a spacecraft landing, on November 26, 2018. An image taken by InSight shows the trailing path of the Rolling Stone indicating the displacement.
The name Rolling Stones Rock is a perfect fit. Part of NASA’s charter is to share our work with different audiences. When we found out the Stones would be in Pasadena, honoring them seemed like a fun way to reach fans all over the world. – Lori Glaze, the director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington
Actor Rober Downey Jr. made the announcement on August 22, 2019, at Rose Bowl Stadium, stating, “Cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing…” According to Matt Golombek, a JPL geologist, Rolling Stone has to be the coolest rock ever.
Official scientific names for places and objects are obviously necessary and it is done by the International Astronomical Union. However, it does not take away the fact that scientists of NASA have a sense of humor that is on point, and as is the case with any inside jokes, they have given lots of unofficial nicknames to rocks and other geological features.
NASA’s Artemis program is the next step for human exploration of Mars, and it will first explore the Moon first eventually enabling the human exploration of Mars.