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Bruce BettsJanuary 15, 2014

Fly your name to an asteroid!

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission and The Planetary Society invite people worldwide to fly their names on a round-trip ride to the target of the OSIRIS-REx mission, the asteroid Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is an unmanned robotic mission, but thousands of names will be hitching a ride to the asteroid, spend over 2 years there, and return to Earth in the Sample Return Capsule in 2023. A copy of the names will also be placed on the spacecraft, which will remain in space long after the sample return capsule is back on Earth.

The campaign is called Messages to Bennu! Those who submit their names to the Messages to Bennu! campaign will be able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx (Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer) mission. You can submit names until September 30, 2014.  Messages to Bennu! is part of The Planetary Society's Messages from Earth program. The Planetary Society and NASA's OSIRIS-REx carried out a naming competition that led to the naming of the asteroid Bennu.

UPDATE: JANUARY 16: We are experiencing very high traffic loads on our server. You should be able to submit your name right now (if not, try back a little later), but you may not be able to print your certificate immediately.  If you get a notice that we have temporarily disabled certificate access to better deal with name entry server loads, you can always come back to get and print your certificate using either your first and last name and email address entered, or using your certificate number.  We are sorry for any inconvenience.  Be assured that if you enter/entered your name and got to the pop up window telling you your name will fly, then your name is in the database and will fly and you will be able to return and get your certificate as traffic loads on the server go down. If you did not receive a certificate number or if you don't remember it, but if you got to the pop up window saying "Success," then you will be able to get the certificate with your name and email).  We appreciate your patience.

Submit your name now!

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Note that all Planetary Society members names will eventually be included automatically, but we encourage members to submit names of family members and pass along the opportunity to friends.

Here are some quotes on this opportunity from the heads of the OSIRIS-REx mission and The Planetary Society:

“I’m thrilled to be able to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth. To Bennu and Back! It’s a great opportunity for people to get engaged with the mission early and join us as we prepare for launch in 2016,” said Dante Lauretta, Principal Investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission.

Bill Nye, the CEO of The Planetary Society, said, “We'll put your name aboard a spacecraft that goes out to an asteroid… and back. You'll be part of humankind's exploration of the Solar System. How cool is that? At the Planetary Society, we engage the citizens of Earth in space exploration. The OSIRIS-REx names collection fits right in.”

The OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission is the third NASA New Frontiers mission. It will launch in 2016, rendezvous with Bennu in 2018, and return in 2023. The University of Arizona leads the mission, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides project management, and Lockheed Martin builds the sampling mechanism and spacecraft. The Planetary Society is collaborating with the OSIRIS-REx project on various efforts to further engage the public in the mission.

Read more: Messages from Earth, Planetary Society Projects, fun, asteroids, events and announcements, OSIRIS-REx

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
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