Like a Rolling Stone: NASA Names Rolling Mars Rock after Rolling Stones

Like a Rolling Stone: NASA Names Rolling Mars Rock after Rolling Stones

Jagger and the band may now have a bit of Satisfaction.

Source: Interesting Engineering

You can’t always get what you want – but if you’re the Rolling Stones, you’re likely to have a few pretty cool privileges.

One of these, it turns out, is that the band has had a rolling stone on Mars named after them – the stone has aptly been called the “Rolling Stones Rock.”


When NASA’s InSight Lander successfully landed on Mars on 26 November 2018, mission control reported that a small rock, a little larger than a golf ball, appeared to have been sent tumbling – or rolling perhaps – about 3 feet (1 meter) by the spacecraft’s thrusters.

Clearly great music fans, the team behind InSight’s mission – aimed at studying the Red Planet’s deep interior – decided to name the rock the “Rolling Stones Rock.”

Like a Rolling Stone: NASA Names Rolling Mars Rock after Rolling Stones
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In images taken after landing, a trail can be seen – clear signs of the stone’s “rockin’ and rollin’.”

Robert Downey Jr. also took to the stage before the Rolling Stones started their concert, announcing that, “cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing…”

A space rolling milestone

In fact, in a blog post by NASA, the space company says it is the farthest the space agency has seen a rock roll while landing a spacecraft on another planet.

This animation illustrates NASA's InSight lander touching down on Mars, its thrusters setting a rock in motion. A little bigger than a golf ball, the rock was later nicknamed
This animation illustrates NASA’s InSight lander touching down on Mars, its thrusters setting “Rolling Stones Rock” in motion. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

And that’s not the only milestone. The Rolling Stones themselves said they felt privileged, and that the rock naming will go down as an important part of the band’s history:

“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 band is reported to have said, according to the NASA post.

Mars and beyond

As NASA reports, official names for objects throughout the solar system can only be assigned by the International Astronomical Union.

However, scientists working with NASA’s Mars rovers have assigned a lot of informal ‘nicknames’ to objects on Mars to help with their missions. As such, the “Rolling Stones Rock,” while an informal title, will appear on working maps of the Red Planet.

NASA is using its robotic mission to Mars to help set the stage for manned missions to the Red Planet. As a gateway to that lofty goal, the space agency’s Artemis program will send humans to the moon, to prepare them for further space exploration. 

A giant leap for mankind – and the Rolling Stones, already immortalized in popular culture, are now also a part of space exploration history.

David Aragorn

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