February 28, 2014
New Project Allows Citizens To Name All Unnamed Craters On Mars
[ Watch the Video: How Can You Leave Your Mark On Mars? ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
For just five bucks, the science advocacy start-up Uwingu is allowing anyone with an internet connection to name one of the 500,000 unnamed craters on Mars after themselves, their loved one, a pet or anything else.
“(The names will) be used by anyone using Uwingu’s Mars maps,” explained a statement on the campaign’s website. “For now that’s just the public, but soon, we hope, scientists and space missions to Mars will be using these maps too.”
For those cynical about spending money on a name that has yet to be embraced by NASA or other space agencies, Uwingu has said that the proceeds from the naming campaign will go toward “grants for space research and education—meaning that with every name you contribute you’ll be helping to fuel future space activities.”
"If we sell them all, we'll generate $10 million for the Uwingu Fund," Alan Stern, the planetary scientist who founded Uwingu in 2012, told NBC News.
About 15,000 craters are off limits for the campaign as they already have names approved by the International Astronomical Union. Stern noted that Martian craters often get unofficial names – such as Eagle Crater, where NASA's Opportunity rover landed a decade ago.
"Mars rover drivers name everything in sight — they name rocks and hills and craters, without asking anybody's permission," Stern pointed out.
The company said duplicate names are allowed – as long as they are in different districts drawn up on the Martian surface – just as the same street names can exist in different cities.
“So if someone has already used a name you want to use—no problem—just make sure the crater you name is in a different part of Mars than where someone else named a crater the same thing,” the company said.
Uwingu said they will rule out any names deemed offensive, profane or pejorative. When a person names their crater, they will receive an electronic certificate with the name of the donor, name of the crater and the details of the newly named crater.
Last year, Uwingu generated a controversy when they held a similar naming campaign for planets outside our solar system – also known as exoplanets. That campaign was roundly criticized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), an international organization of over 10,000 professional astronomers from over 90 countries. The organization said a planetary naming system must work across borders and organizations in order to support collaborative research.
“To make this possible, the IAU acts as a single arbiter of the naming process, and is advised and supported by astronomers within different fields,” the IAU said in a statement. “As an international scientific organization, it dissociates itself entirely from the commercial practice of selling names of planets, stars or even ‘real estate´ on other planets or moons. These practices will not be recognized by the IAU and their alternative naming schemes cannot be adopted.”