How did NASA collect the names?
Signature Chips on Mars
These two signature chips (circled in red) carry 1.2 million names submitted from the public.
More than 1.2 million names were submitted on our web site over a one year period! Some 20,000 visitors to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla., wrote their names on pages that were scanned and reproduced at microscopic scale onto two chips the size of a dime.
Send Your Name to Mars Chips Location (prior to launch)
How were the chips made?
Engineers etched the names onto a silicon wafer or microchip. They used an electron beam "E-beam" machine at JPL that specializes in etching very tiny features (less than 1 micron, or less than the width of a human hair!). They normally use this machine to make high-precision microdevices in JPL's Microdevices Laboratory.
Close-up of microchip with 1.2 million names
Etched Version of Leonardo da Vinci's Self-Portrait On The Microchip
Credit: Biblioteca Reale, Turin, in collaboration with NASA/JPL-Caltech
Leonardo da Vinci's Codex on Bird Flight, a document from about 1505 was reproduced on a microscopic scale and fastened to the chip on Curiosity. Leonardo's self-portrait is also on the rover, along with some essays, drawings, and other submissions from finalists and semi-finalists who participated in the "Send Your Name to Mars" rover naming contest opportunity.