Fly your name to the asteroids

Nasa are giving everyone the chance to send their name into the stars aboard a new mission – but you need to get your skates on. The space agency will accept names until Saturday for a probe that will fly to the two biggest asteroids in the solar system.

Dawn probeThey will be added to a silicon chip that will fitted inside the Dawn spacecraft which is scheduled for launch in June next year. Project manager Keyur Patel said: “How many chances do you get to fly into the very heart of the asteroid belt?”

Thousands of space fans have already submitted their names. Others have until Saturday, November 4 to send theirs via the mission website.

The Dawn probe will be the first to fly around and examine two separate worlds. Using an ion engine to provide “light drive” on a four-year, three billion kilometer (1.9 billion mile) flight, it will go into orbit around the asteroid Vesta in 2011. After months of detailed study, the craft will fire its engine again and travel on to a separate rendezvous with the biggest of the asteroids, Ceres, in 2014.

Dawn’s Principal investigator Chris Russell, of the University of California Los Angeles, said: “This campaign will allow people from around the world to become directly involved with Dawn, and through that, become familiar with the mission’s science.”

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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