It all started when a mysterious teaser video from Robert Downey Jr was released on Thursday in which he was heard saying “Cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing…”
— Robert Downey Jr (@RobertDowneyJr) August 22, 2019
But it’s not just any video, it’s an announcement; NASA’s InSight lander touched and probed a rock. The machine’s thrusters disturbed the golf-ball-sized rock which made it roll for three feet across the Martian landscape. The rock is approximately 2.2 inches in diameter and 1 inch in height.
Hello “@RollingStones Rock” Who could hang a name on you? Um… us!
When @NASAInsight touched down on the Red Planet, its engines sent a rock rolling across Mars’ surface. We named it for the band. Take a closer look and learn how #MarsRocks get named: https://t.co/xY0TfoksJP pic.twitter.com/BZlABAMaZJ
— NASA (@NASA) August 23, 2019
In images taken the next day by the InSight, there were several divots in the orange-red soil that were seen trailing the Rolling Stones Rock.
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) August 23, 2019
“I’ve seen a lot of Mars rocks over my career. This one probably won’t be in a lot of scientific papers, but it’s definitely one of the coolest,” said JPL geologist Matt Golombek in a press release from the agency.
The most ambitious crossover announcement in space?@NASAInSight just named “@RollingStones Rock” on Mars in honor of the band. Watch @RobertDowneyJr announce the @NASA news live on stage at the Rose Bowl ahead of tonight’s concert. https://t.co/868Gbervw1 #MarsRocks pic.twitter.com/xETMzS0H9y
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) August 23, 2019
The name Rolling Stone remains informal as the scientists working with NASA’s Mars rovers give such nicknames, the official name of places and objects throughout the solar system are designated only by the International Astronomical Union.