For a mere $5, even an average joe will now be able to name a crater on Mars. The crater naming craze has been started by Uwingu, a company that focuses on raising funds for space research.
"For years, space mission rover drivers have named craters on Mars and Apollo astronauts have named landing site landmarks on their Moon missions," says Uwingu on their site. "Now it's your turn, creating the first citizen's Mars map with names for all of the approximately 500,000 largest, still unnamed craters on Mars!"
Uwingu opened the floodgates for its Mars crater fundraising campaign on Feb 26. and anybody can now zero in on a Martian crater and name it after himself, his friends, his family, his loved one or even his mother-in-law. Prices start at $5 per crater. However, the price increases as the size of the crater also increases. Uwingu is offering a total of 500,000 craters that the general public can name. Aside from craters, Uwingu is also allowing people to name certain areas on the Red Planet.
"You can also help name the map grid rectangles of all the Districts and Provinces in our address system-the first ever address system for Mars," says Uwingu.
The company hopes to raise around $10 million from the project. The proceeds will go to the funding of various space research and exploration projects. There are no specific requirements to name a crater and all that is needed is an internet connection and an online payment option. Once the payment is completed, the name will immediately be reflected on Uwingu's Mars map.
While the names of the craters created through the fundraising campaign will be used on the company's Mars maps, Uwingu is hoping that future exploration missions to Mars will also use the naming conventions generated through the project.
Before the fundraising campaign started, only 15,000 Martian features were named by various scientists and space officials. However, Uwingu is hoping that the 500,000 craters up for grabs will all be named by the end of the year. One of the aims of the project is to help fill the large void in Martian cartography.
Normally, the naming of landmarks, geographical features, planets, stars and other astronomical features should be approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). While the Uwingu crater names are not sanctioned by the IAU, the company says that they can be used as informal names for the Martian landmarks.
In the past, various informal names for astronomical features have come into general use despite not being officially approved by the IAU. One of the most famous examples of this is the Milky Way, which is not an official IAU name for our home galaxy.