A North Texas family was a part of the Mars Perseverance rover that launched Thursday morning.
Inscribed on a chip in the rover are the names of the Castro family, including long-time Buffalo Bills fan Ezra Castro, known as Buffalo Bills superfan Pancho Billa, who died after a battle with cancer last year.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineer Jerry Stoces fought cancer with Castro, and the two forged a friendship as they battled the disease side by side.
NASA does something special for every mission, Stoces said, and for Thursday's Perseverance rover, Stoces honored his friend.
"I thought it would be a nice way to remember him," Stoces said.
In addition to Ezra, eight names are on the rover: Aurora, Jaime, Zenoc, Elezar, Vangie, Briana, Noah and Stuart. Ezra's brother Jaime is a Dallas police officer.
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"I can see the smile on his face," said Aurora Castro, Ezra's mother. "I know he's with us, and I know he's happy to see this accomplishment."
The family was invited to the launch Thursday but chose not to go due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, they watched the launch from their Farmers Branch home on Thursday morning and looked on as the rover carrying their names made its way to Mars.
"It's something that is going be for all eternity that our names will be up there on the red planet," Jaime said. "It is possible to reach out into infinity and be closer to those that we love."