By By Robert Z. Pearlman, collectSPACE.com
NASA is inviting the public to submit their names to fly to an asteroid and back aboard a robotic spacecraft set to leave Earth in two years.
If the space agency's offer sounds familiar, that's because it is: NASA has been collecting and launching names on its space-bound missionsfor more than 15 years.
NASA and The Planetary Society's "Messages to Bennu!" is the latest incarnation of the "send your name to space" public outreach program. Announced on Wednesday (Jan. 15), names submitted before Sept. 30 will be flown aboard the OSIRIS-REx (Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer) spacecraft. [See photos of OSIRIS-Rex, NASA's asteroid sample-return mission]
"We are thrilled to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth, to Bennu and back," said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx missionfrom the University of Arizona in Tucson, in a statement. "It's a great opportunity for people to get engaged with the mission early and join us as we prepare for launch."
OSIRIS-REx will collect a sample of Bennu's surface and return it to Earth in a capsule. The name-etched microchip meanwhile will remain in a long-term solar orbit around the sun with the spent spacecraft.
"You will be part of humankind's exploration of the solar system — how cool is that?" Bill Nye, the chief executive of The Planetary Society, the organization collecting and processing the name entries, said. ...more