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NASA names tumbling Mars rock after Rolling Stones

By Danielle Haynes
NASA names tumbling Mars rock after Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger said he wants the Mars rock named after his band to be returned to Earth so he can put it on his mantle. Photo by Dave Allocca/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- In perhaps one of the most unexpected crossover events in NASA history, the U.S. space agency named a tumbling Mars rock after British rock 'n' roll band the Rolling Stones.

Astronomers spotted the mobile rock -- about the size of a golf ball -- when NASA's InSight robotic lander touched down on Mars in November. The force of the lander's thrusters caused the rock to roll about 3 feet away.

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Actor Robert Downey Jr. announced the honor Thursday before a Rolling Stones concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

"NASA has given us something we have always dreamed of, our very own rock on Mars," Jagger told the crowd. "I can't believe it. I want to bring it back and put it on our mantelpiece."

InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. The entirety of the craft's mission will take place on Elysium Planitia, the broad equatorial plain where the lander touched down.

The InSight Mars Lander is designed to drill into Mars' interior. It traveled 300 million miles over six months to reach the planet.

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This isn't the lander's only link to rock music. A phrase referencing the band Green Day -- "Green Day Since 1986" -- was etched onto a chip on InSight.

The "Green Day Since 1986" phrase refers to the year when the group was formed by singer Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt who were then known as Sweet Children.

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