LISTED BELOW are past and present unmanned deep space missions that were launched by NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) since 1996. Onboard these robotic spacecraft are or were compact discs, microchips or engraved aluminum plates bearing the names of up to a million people...including that of Yours Truly. The majority of these names were submitted via the Internet (the exceptions being for Mars Pathfinder* and Cassini**) as part of public relation efforts by NASA and JAXA to get people interested in these missions. In my case, these PR campaigns worked quite well.
*-The names onboard Pathfinder were originally submitted for Russia's Mars '96 mission, which failed during launch on November 16, 1996. Like Cassini below, signatures were sent in via snail mail. Also like Cassini, certificates were not made available to confirm that my name is indeed onboard the Pathfinder lander. Since I know for sure that I submitted my name for Mars '96, I would have to assume that it was also on the list of names provided by The Planetary Society that eventually made its way to the Martian surface on America's Independence Day in 1997.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / Space Science Institute / G. Ugarkovic
Launch: October 15, 1997
Arrival: July 1, 2004
End of mission: September 15, 2017
Number of signatures on DVD: 616,420
**-Names were submitted for the Cassini mission by having them written on postcards and then being mailed to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California (where the spacecraft was built). The names were then scanned onto a computer to be burned onto a DVD. Like Mars Pathfinder above, no certificate was provided to confirm that a person's name was indeed onboard Cassini. In my case, I would just have to assume that it was.
Launch: May 21, 2010 - JST (in tandem with IKAROS)
Destination: Venus - Cytherocentric orbit
Arrival: December 7, 2015 - JST
****-Due to a problem with the spacecraft's propulsion system, Akatsuki failed to enter orbit around Venus during its targeted arrival day on December 7, 2010 (JST). To protect the spacecraft from wear and tear as it orbited around the Sun, JAXA placed Akatsuki in a hibernation state during this protracted cruise in deep space as it awaited its next (successful) opportunity to enter orbit around Venus in late 2015.
Number of names and messages on aluminum plates: 260,214