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Mars craters for $5?

You can name Mars’ craters for just 5 dollars each

Scientists and astronauts step aside.  The space-education project, Uwingu, (“sky” in Swahili), is making it possible for anyone to name any of Mars’ 500,000 or so unnamed craters, as part of a special citizen’s mapping project.  Uwingu CEO Alan Stern, a former NASA science chief who also heads the space agency’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, said: “It’s a very social thing.  This is the first people’s map of Mars, where anybody can play. ”

mars craters

Mars crater

Technically, not everyone can name one of the Mars craters.  In order to name one of Mars’ craters one will need an internet connection and a few disposable dollars.  Employing an interactive map of  Mars’ surface, one need only click on a chosen crater and pay a charge between $5 and $250.  The price increases with the size of the crater.

The profits from this “people’s choice” Mars’ property-naming project—which could come to over $10 million—will be used to fund “grants to space researchers, educators, and entrepreneurs in this time of government cutbacks.”  This is in fact the organization’s chief purpose.

Stern told Space.com: “We’re developing this grant fund — the Uwingu fund — for people who’ve been hit by sequestration.  There’s nothing like it right now. They have no place to go; it’s either NASA, NSF (the National Science Foundation) or you’re out of luck.”  He is optimistic about the effort and believes all of mars’ craters could be named by the end of the year.

Craters will be named on a first come, first served basis.  Submitted names for each of the Mars craters will receive immediate acceptance and will not be removed unless company representatives later establish them to be offensive or profane.  They also hope to solicit name choices for other topographical features including the mountains and canyons of Mars as well.

While Uwingu will not solicit approval from the International Astronomical Union which usually authorizes “official” names, Stern made it clear that their naming of Mars’ craters and other features is not an attempt to supersede other maps of Mars like those created by the US Geological Survey.  In fact, the Uwingu map will later incorporate the 15,000 Mars feature names already accepted by the IAU.  At the same time, Stern notes that while the Uwingu names will be popular or informal names, sometimes unofficial names “come into wide usage”.  One need only look at the unofficial moniker “The Milky Way” to see his point.

Finally, Stern stated that this project naming one of the Mars craters and other features could also serve as a commentary on our current culture: “It’s like taking a picture of ourselves.  “What will people put? Will there be a lot of craters named for politicians? For artists, for relatives, for places on Earth? Sports teams?”

You can name Mars craters for just 5 dollars each

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)    

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.