We might not be professional astronauts, but NASA has opened to the gates for us to sign on – literally – for missions to the moon and to hunt for alien planets.
NASA is taking names from the public to send to the moon aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), an unmanned probe slated to launch this fall to map the lunar surface and hunt for future landing sites. The project is part of a cooperative effort between NASA’s LRO office, the Applied Physics Lab at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and the Planetary Society.
The LRO spacecraft will be on the vanguard of NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2020. It is slated to launch on Oct. 28 with a second probe, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) that will crash two vehicles into the moon on purpose.
You can send your name to the moon by entering it at this Johns Hopkins University Web site:
Not only does your name go to the moon, but you’ll also get a lovely numbered certificate (I’m #618,963 if you’re wondering. So yeah, the nosebleed section of the moon trip). You can even go the eco route and just download it in a PDF form, file it away, then never look at it again until later when you’re sifting through old files wondering what delete and save.
The deadline is June 27, so you’ve got some time.
“Everyone who sends their name to the moon, like I’m doing, becomes part of the next wave of lunar explorers,” said Cathy Peddie, LRO deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in a statement. “The LRO mission is the first step in NASA’s plans to return humans to the moon by 2020, and your name can reach there first. How cool is that?”
And if Earth’s nearest neighbor isn’t enough for you, there’s always Kepler: a new space telescope that will hunt for alien planets similar to our terrestrial home.
Slated to launch in February 2009, Kepler will orbit the Sun – not Earth – and peer into the depths of space to scan for Earth-like planets circling their parent stars. The mission’s Name in Space project is part of a NASA cooperation with the International Year of Astronomy in 2009 and the 400th anniversary of Johannes Kepler’s publication of his first two laws of planetary motion.
True to its namesake’s research, the Kepler space telescope will be placed in an orbit that slowly drifts further and further from Earth.
Kepler engineers will be attaching a DVD to the new telescope carrying the names and thoughts of the public, which can be entered at the following Web site:
The deadline to enter your name is Nov. 1. Like the LRO program, you can enter your name and receive a digital certificate. But you can also add your two cents on where the Kepler mission’s importance lies in the current space exploration regime.
NASA plans to donate a copy of the DVD to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and post a video of the original’s installation on the Kepler telescope later this year.
“It’s a way for the public to participate in our space program,” explained David Koch, deputy principal investigator for Kepler’s mission, in a statement. “We’re looking for several million names…The only limitation is people’s interest.”