Science Channel - InSCIder

17 Jan

Your Name In Space: NASA Invites 'Messages To Bennu' -- Here's How To Enter

FbookasteroidnameIf you've ever wanted to go to space but haven't quite made the cut to be an astronaut (or to join the first human colony on Mars), here's your chance.

NASA is inviting members of the public to send "Messages to Bennu," a 1,760-foot-wide asteroid expected to pass incredibly close to Earth in 2060 -- just 464,779 miles away.

(Fun fact: Asteroid 1999 RQ36 was renamed Bennu in 2013, a name suggested by 9-year-old Michael Puzio, a third grader in North Carolina.)

The "Messages to Bennu" names will be etched onto a microchip traveling aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which will start its roundtrip journey to the asteroid in 2016. It's expected to spent two years at Bennu before returning a sample capsule to Earth in 2023. 

It takes just one click to fly your name to space -- submit it here.

OSIRIS-REx's mission: "help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth."

The sample return capsule will bring back at least 2.1 ounces of asteroid Bennu for analysis, while "the spacecraft will be placed into a long-term solar orbit around the sun, along with the microchip and every name on it."

Entering your name isn't just a set-it-and-forget-it opportunity. After signing up, enrollees can print a certificate of participation and follow the spacecraft's journey from start to finish on Facebook.

As of January 16, more than 40,000 people had submitted their names.

"You'll be part of humankind's exploration of the solar system. How cool is that?" said Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society (the organization collecting the names).

Very cool, Science Guy.

Researchers at the University of Arizona say Bennu "has one of the highest impact probabilities in the next few centuries of any known asteroid" -- odds of impact with Earth in the year 2182 are approximately one in 1800. Could this be the dreaded "doomsday asteroid"?

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