If you’ve always wanted to choose the name of stuff from outer space but never got the chance… now’s your time to shine! NASA is offering you the chance to name one of the craters of Mercury in honour of the MESSENGER mission, which is nearing its final days.
NASA, together with Johns Hopkins University and the Carnegie Institution for Science, has kicked off a competition which will allow the general public to decide the name of craters on Mercury. Craters on the closest planet to the sun are typically named after artists, and current examples include Beethoven, Caravaggio and Lennon. You will submit the name of whatever artist you want from anywhere in the world, and then the people will vote. It’s a long shot, but your favorite artist just might be chosen!
“This brave little craft, not much bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle, has travelled more than 8 billion miles since 2004—getting to the planet and then in orbit,” Julie Edmonds, head of the mission’s Education and Public Outreach, said.
The MESSENGER mission was supposed to shut down in 2011, but it has surpassed expectations by more than three years – as so many NASA missions have done. MESSENGER (an acronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, and a reference to Mercury being the messenger of the gods) is a robotic NASA spacecraft orbiting the planet Mercury, the first spacecraft ever to do so. The mission has mapped a lot of geological features… all of which are awaiting to be named – by you!
“As scientists study the incredible data returned by MESSENGER, it becomes important to give names to surface features that are of special scientific interest. Having names for landforms such as mountains, craters, and cliffs makes it easier for scientists and others to communicate,” she added.