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NASA Wants YOU To Name An Asteroid (For a Disappointingly Fine Definition of “You”)

It Came From Outer Space

There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to change their name. They might no longer feel that their given name describes them very well. They might have gotten married, or divorced, or adopted. They might have lost a bet, needed a publicity stunt, or landed in the witness protection program. Or, they might have a name that everybody around them finds difficult to pronounce or spell, and they got fed up with it.

Case in point: Asteroid (101955) 1999 RQ36.

NASA is planning to launch a probe to (101955) 1999 RQ36 in 2016, with the mission of studying the asteroid and then, even more daringly, chipping a bit off of it and flying back to Earth by 2023, just in time to study it before a (planned) manned mission to the asteroid in 2025. And they’ve decided that if they’re going to be talking about (101955) 1999 RQ36 for more than ten years… well, they’d like it to have an actual name.

In partnership with The Planetary Society in Pasadena, Calif.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington; and the University of Arizona in Tucson, NASA is offering an international contest to name (101955) 1999 RQ36.

The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world. Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long. Entries must include a short explanation and rationale for the name. Submissions must be made by an adult on behalf of the student. The contest deadline is Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012.

Dang. Are you sure you have to be under the age of 18, NASA? What if you’re, ah, young at heart, and are frequently mistaken for a teenager?

“Asteroids are just cool and 1999 RQ36 deserves a cool name!” said Bill Nye, chief executive officer for The Planetary Society. “Engaging kids around the world in a naming contest will get them tuned in to asteroids and asteroid science…”

“…Because the samples returned by the mission will be available for study for future generations, it is possible the person who names the asteroid will grow up to study the regolith we return to Earth,” said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Well, I guess if Bill Nye says I can’t… I’ll just have to find some impressionable youth to submit my suggestion (Rocky) with. Oooh, or we could name it Mogo!

Children of the world. Don’t screw this up for me.

(via The Sacramento Bee.)

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Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.