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Hundreds of travelers now have Mars stamps in their passports. Here’s why

Until Elon Musk gets his act together and, to paraphrase Total Recall, gets our collective ass to Mars, it’s unlikely that you’ll be picking up any official Mars stamps in your passport. A rare exception to that rule took place this week. Passengers arriving in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), received a special limited-edition stamp in “martian ink,” extracted from the same kind of volcanic basalt rocks that lend Mars its recognizable rusty color.

This stamp was to celebrate the arrival of the UAE Mars Mission at the red planet on February 9. The spacecraft, called Hope, was launched in July 2020 on a Japanese H-IIA rocket, and has spent the subsequent seven months on its ways to Mars. This week, it finally reached Martian orbit. Hope is the UAE’s first interplanetary mission, the result of decades of work. It will be used to take a complete picture of the atmosphere on Mars.

The commemorative stamp given to passengers reads: “You’ve arrived in the Emirates. The Emirates is arriving at Mars on 09.02.2021.” (Note: The UAE uses the day-month-year date notation, unlike the U.S.)

UAE Government Media Office Mars
UAE Government Media Office

“What makes it so special is that we really thought about the connection between Mars and Earth, and realized that right here in the UAE’s rugged mountain ranges, we have the same basalt rocks which are found on Mars,” Khaled al-Shehhi, executive director of marketing and communications for the UAE Government Media Office, told Digital Trends.

These rocks, taken from UAE’s eastern Al Hajar Mountains and Mleiha Desert, were gathered by geologists in the region. They were then crushed into a paste, dried in the sun, and mixed with adhesives so as to create three distinct colors representing Mars. These then became the special martian ink used for stamping passports welcoming people to the UAE.

Given that the pandemic is currently stopping much international travel from taking place, it seems likely that far fewer people received the one-of-a-kind stamp on Tuesday. Al-Shehhi was unable to confirm the exact number who did receive it, but noted that “generally, thousands of passengers pass through Dubai airport” on any given day. Nonetheless, “it’s a limited-edition stamp, so those who did receive one are very lucky.”

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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