On NASA’s MESSENGER 10 year anniversary, the US space agency plans to let the public vote for the most appropriate names five craters on planet Mercury will take. The names must not point to old things, but be related to a dead artist, writer or composer that had at least a 50-year moment of fame.
Johns Hopkins University and the Carnegie Institution for Science will gather and count the votes, while the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will approve the names. The public poll starts on December 15 and ends one month later.
The IAU, an organization that coordinates space objects’ naming, said that the five impact craters have to be named for a writer, musician or artist that died more than three years ago. Also, public submissions will be accepted up until January 15, while the winners will be announced two or three months later when the MESSENGER spacecraft will also be put off orbit.
NASA said that it chose to launch the Mercury crater-naming contest to celebrate the tenth and final year of activity of the MESSENGER Mission on this planet.
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) spacecraft has been orbiting the first planet from the sun since 2008, but it started gathering space related data in 2004. NASA space experts say that the Volkswagen-Beetle-sized orbiter has now reached its final days and it is scheduled to crush into Mercury’s surface in the spring of 2015.
The Carnegie Institution staff said that this small orbiter was a surprise to the scientific community since it lasted more than expected and gathered way more data than previous calculated. The MESSENGER mission’s team had initially planed to get about 2,500 pictures of Mercury, but MESSENGER sent back to Earth over 250,000 – allowing NASA scientists to design a high resolution map of the entire planet.
Julie Edmonds, chief of the MESSENGER mission’s PR department, said that the “brave little craft” had flown more than 8 billion miles in the past 10 years. Mrs. Edmonds also liked to thank the guiding scientists and engineers that made MESSENGER mission such an outstanding success.
“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,”
Mrs. Edmonds also said.
Since 2008, MESSENGER revealed deposits of water ice nearby Mercury’s poles, the planet’s incredible electromagnetic activity in its thin exosphere, as well as meteor shower activity caused by comet Encke on its surface.
Image Source: Stretching the Boundaries