“Rolling Stones Rock” was unveiled during the Stones’ concert in Pasadena, California Thursday night, with Robert Downey, Jr. on hand to make the announcement. As the actor explained, the name came after a team of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory noticed that a small rock, just a bit larger than a golf ball, had been propelled about three feet by the thrusters of the Mars InSight lander as it touched down last November.
“And some scientists,” Downey Jr. quipped, “in a fit of fandom and clever association, they put forth, ‘Why don’t we name it, Rolling Stones Rock?'”
NASA also shared a visual recreation of the rock’s historic tumble, which, per a press release, is “the farthest NASA has seen a rock roll while landing a spacecraft on another planet.” The clip is fittingly set to “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)” and ends with an actual photo of “Rolling Stones Rock.”
In a statement, the Rolling Stones said of the honor, “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.”
As longtime JPL geologist Matt Golombek noted, “Rolling Stones Rock” probably “won’t be in a lot of scientific papers,” but it will serve an important function as NASA studies the landscape of Mars. Official names for places and objects throughout the solar system are chosen by the International Astronomical Union, but NASA scientists have long come up with unofficial nicknames for rocks and other geological features to make their work easier.
As for the actual Rolling Stones, the band has two more shows left on their “No Filter” tour, August 26th in Glendale, Arizona and August 31st in Miami, Florida.