NASA has named a Martian rock after the hit band, The Rolling Stones, on Thursday night moments before the band was set to perform at a concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
“NASA has given us something we have always dreamed of,” lead singer Mick Jagger, 76, said during the Stones concert. “I can’t believe it. I want to bring it back and put in on our mantelpiece.”
To make the entire event better, Robert Downey Jr. made the announcement and gave the honor before the Rolling Stones. “This is so rad, thank you for letting me be part of history,” Downey Jr. said from the stage.
NASA along with Downey Jr.’s assistance planned to make the announcement as the group—Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood—took the stage for the first time at the Rose Bowl in 25 years, part of the band’s “No Filter” tour.
Coincidentally, Rose Bowl is at a significant location for NASA as it is located at a venue close to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, who also led the Mars InSight mission.
The band said that the honor was “a milestone in our long and eventful history.” Ending the statement by saying: “A huge thank you to everyone at Nasa for making it happen.”
The Ironman-character from Marvel Studios went on to explain as to why NASA has decided to give the honor of naming a rock after The Rolling Stones.
According to Downey Jr., when Mars lander InSight first landed on the Red Planet in November 2018, the thrusters knocked over a rock about the size of a golf ball, sending it to roll over until about three feet away—all within the ship’s onboard cameras.
In images taken the next day, several divots in the orange-red soil were noticeable.
The space agency said: “It’s the farthest NASA has seen a rock roll while landing a spacecraft on another planet.”
“Some scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a fit of fandom and clever association, put forth, ‘Why don’t we name it, Rolling Stones Rock?’ ” Downey Jr. said.
Downey made this title quasi-official by asking for an audible vote from the audience. “Charlie, Ronnie, Keith, and Mick — they were in no way opposed to the notion,” Downey said, “but in a typical egalitarian fashion, they suggested I assist in procuring 60,000 votes to make it official, so that’s my mission.” Everyone then said “aye” to agree and there were no audible dissenters.
Earlier on Thursday afternoon, Downey Jr. has promised a major announcement in a cryptic, trippy video filmed against a galaxy backdrop with the Rolling Stones logo at the top.
The video was posted on his official Twitter and Instagram accounts, which piqued people’s curiosity on what the surprise was about.
In the video, Downey Jr. said he was “bubbling with anticipation.”
“My gosh, I have inside me a riddle that I have to share. What do the Rolling Stones, NASA, and the Rose Bowl and the ruling planet of my birth sign all have in common?”
Later on, Downey Jr. said: “Folks used to say to me, ‘How do you keep an idiot in suspense? I’ll tell you tomorrow.’ ” he joked. “Well, you don’t have to wait. Because it will all be revealed tonight. Oh, my God. This may be the most exciting thing I have ever done.”
Lori Glaze, director of Nasa’s Planetary Science Division, said: “The name Rolling Stones Rock is a perfect fit. Part of Nasa’s charter is to share our work with different audiences, and when we found out the Stones would be in Pasadena honoring them seemed like a fun way to reach fans all over the world. The name ‘Rolling Stones Rock’ is informal but it will be added to working maps of Mars.”
Although the entire ordeal seems random at best, NASA is known for marketing the idea of space exploration for decades, even before the Apollo 11 mission that sent the first man to the moon.
Today’s Rolling Stones dedication is nothing different. Recently, the space agency also collaborated with Peanuts toys and McDonald’s to inspire the younger generation to take up STEM-related courses and inspire them about space.
“I’ve seen a lot of Mars rocks over my career,” Matt Golombek, a JPL geologist who has helped NASA land all its Mars missions since 1997, said in a statement. “This one probably won’t be in a lot of scientific papers, but it’s definitely one of the coolest.”