NASA’s asteroid naming contest for students

Students worldwide have an opportunity to name an asteroid from which an upcoming NASA mission will return the first samples to Earth.

Scheduled to launch in 2016, the mission is called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx). Samples returned from the primitive surface of the near-Earth asteroid currently called (101955) 1999 RQ36 could hold clues to the origin of the solar system and organic molecules that may have introduced life on Earth.

NASA also is planning a crewed mission to an asteroid by 2025.  A closer scientific study of asteroids will provide context and help inform this mission.

The competition is open to students under age 18 from anywhere in the world. Each contestant can submit one name, up to 16 characters long. Entries must include a short explanation and rationale for the name. Submissions must be made by an adult on behalf of the student. The contest deadline is Sunday, December 2, 2012.

A panel will review proposed asteroid names. First prize will be awarded to the student who recommends a name that is approved by the International Astronomical Union Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature.

The asteroid was discovered in 1999 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) survey at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington. LINEAR is part of NASA's Near Earth Observation Program in Washington, which detects and catalogues near-Earth asteroids and comets. The asteroid has an average diameter of about 500 meters.

To view contest rules and guidelines, visit:

http://planetary.org/name

To see a video explanation about the contest, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/name-asteroid.html

For information about the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

http://osiris-rex.lpl.arizona.edu