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Rolling Stones Rock: NASA names stone on Mars after band

It might not be 2,000 light years from home, but The Rolling Stones could be forgiven for boasting about having a rock named after them on Mars.

NASA bestowed the title on the little stone after its InSight robotic lander captured the object rolling across the surface of the red planet, and it seemed provide Sir Mick Jagger with plenty of satisfaction when he heard the news.

It was made public by actor Robert Downey Jr just before the Stones appeared at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, near the NASA jet propulsion laboratory that manages InSight.

Image: The rock towards the bottom of this image was tossed about three feet (1m) by NASA’s InSight spacecraft. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Iron Man star, whose Marvel character is a noted Black Sabbath fan, said: “Cross-pollinating science and a legendary rock band is always a good thing.”

He told the crowd that NASA came up with the name for the rock “in a fit of fandom and clever association”.


Sir Mick, 76, took a moment between songs to say: “NASA has given us something we have always dreamed of, our very own rock on Mars. I can’t believe it.”

The Stones front man later added: “I want to say a special thanks to our favourite action man Robert Downey Jr. That was a very nice intro he gave.”

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Downey Jr had also led the crowd in a mock vote over the naming of the rock to “make it official”.

He said: “Charlie, Ronnie, Keith and Mick – they were in no way opposed to the notion, but in typical egalitarian fashion, they suggested I assist in procuring 60,000 votes to make it official, so that’s my mission.”

Image: Robert Downey Jnr with members of NASA’s InSight Lander team. Pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The audience, which had been left somewhat bemused when the NASA logo appeared with that of the Stones before the show, joined in with a shout of “aye” before the actor declared the deed done.

NASA said the rock in question was not much bigger than a golf ball, and had been moved when robotic lander InSight touched down on Mars on 26 November, last year.

It only shifted a few feet, but NASA said it was the furthest it had seen a rock roll while landing a craft.

Geologist Matt Golombek has helped NASA land all its Mars missions since 1997 and said: “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.”


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