NASA Names a Rock After the Rolling Stones

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Last night, during a Rolling Stones concert, actor Robert Downey Jr. made the announcement that NASA will be naming a rock on Mars after the band.

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight, is a robot that NASA sent to Mars to study the deep interior of the planet. InSight is equipped with a seismometer that it will place on the planet to measure seismic activity and help scientists map an accurate 3D model of the planet’s interior. It will also measure the internal heat flow of the planet to help with studies for analyzing Mars’ early stages of evolution.

The Rolling Stones were playing Thursday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, when Robert Downey Jr. made the announcement, which also happens to be the home city of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This is the team who manages the InSight Mars lander.

When the machine landed on Nov. 26, 2018, it hit a rock, just bigger than a golf ball, which then rolled about three feet from its original resting place. The reason why this is significant is that this is the farthest NASA has seen a rock roll as the result of landing a spacecraft on any other planet.

The new name has not been officially approved by the International Astronomical Union, which is the organization responsible for deciding the official names of things in space. However, NASA has a history of nicknaming rocks and other miscellaneous space objects in order to make discussion about their studies easier. The name Rolling Stones Rock will appear on maps used by scientists and will continue to be used to identify the roving stone.