PASADENA (CBSLA) — The Rolling Stones are not just one of the biggest rock bands on Earth – they have a pretty big presence on Mars, too.
Before taking the stage at the Rose Bowl for their first concert there in 25 years, “Iron Man” actor Robert Downey Jr. announced that NASA had named a rock that had rolled as the InSight lander arrived on the Red Planet after the iconic band.
“While landing on the Red Planet’s surface, it displaced a rock that rolled a fair distance in view of its on-board cameras,” Downey said. “And some scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a fit of fandom and clever association, they put forth, ‘why don’t we name it Rolling Stones Rock?’”
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 Martian rock, a little larger than a golf ball, rolled about three feet when InSight landed on Nov. 26, 2018, according to NASA. InSight’s thrusters propelled the rock as the lander touched down on Mars, where it has been studying the Red Planet since. The InSight mission is led by scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is just a stone’s throw from the Rose Bowl.
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
NASA acknowledged that official scientific names for places and objects throughout the solar system can only be designated by the International Astronomical Union, but that scientists working with NASA’s Mars rovers have used several unofficial nicknames to make it easier to discuss different objects and refer to them in scientific papers. The Rolling Stones Rock, while informal, will still appear on working maps of the Red Planet, according to NASA.