NASA Names Martian Rock After Rolling Stones

The team behind NASA’s InSight lander named a piece of Martian rubble after one of the most iconic bands in music history: “Rolling Stones Rock.”

Slightly larger than a golf ball, the bit of debris appeared to have rolled about three feet, propelled by InSight’s thrusters as the spacecraft touched down on Mars in November.

Photos taken the next day highlight several divots in the orange-red soil, seemingly trailing Rolling Stones Rock.

This marks the farthest NASA has seen a rock roll while landing a spacecraft on another planet.

This rock was tossed about three feet by NASA’s InSight spacecraft as it touched down on Mars in November 2018 (via NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“The name Rolling Stones Rock is a perfect fit,” Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington, said in a statement. “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.”

Performing at the Rose Bowl for the first time in 25 years, the band delighted in the cosmic news.

“This is definitely a milestone in our long and eventful history,” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood said. “A huge thank you to everyone at NASA for making it happen.”

And who better to announce such an occasion than Iron Man himself?

Robert Downey Jr. this week shared a bizarre video on Twitter, teasing the reveal of what he said “may be the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”

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You don’t need a guitar or a microphone or be a rockstar, though: Jet Propulsion Laboratory geologist Matt Golombek has helped NASA land all of its Red Planet missions since 1997.

“I’ve seen a lot of Mars rocks over my career,” he said. “This one probably won’t be in a lot of scientific papers, but it’s definitely one of the coolest.”

While the International Astronomical Union must officially name places and objects throughout the Solar System, NASA scientists often provide unofficial nicknames to cosmic features.

Frankly, it makes it easier to discuss different items and refer to them in documents. So while the title “Rolling Stones Rock” is informal, it will appear on working maps of the Red Planet.

“I want to bring it back and put it on our mantlepiece,” Jagger, on stage at the Stones’ Rose Bowl concert on Thursday, said of the wee boulder.

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