How would you like to name a crater on Mars after yourself or someone you know and do it for just five bucks? That is what the Uwingu Fund is offering as part of its Mars mapping project, if you got five bucks you can name a crater on the Red Planet.
The Uwingu Fund is a science education program that is currently running the Mars mapping project, they also offer grants to educators and scientists who are researching space exploration and education. They have started the Mars crater naming project to raise $10 million for that grant fund, you can buy a small crater for just $5 all the way up to what are known as “Districts” for $3,000, they are about 360 kilometers in size.
Looking for something bigger? Uwingu has another program that lets you nominate a name for an exoplanet. For just $4.99 you can nominate a name and then it goes up for a vote by other users. Each vote costs $0.99 and if a name gets 1,000 votes or more the user who nominated it can then “adopt” the exoplanet.
This project is not setting well with everyone in the science community. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the one in charge of naming celestial bodies and they have debated with the Uwingu Fund on the edict of the subject. The IAU wants to be clear about certain issues that have presented themselves in the past when it comes to naming celestial bodies. The said specifically that star “names” that have been sold in the past are not officially recognized nor have they ever been. The IAU has since started a rigorous process for naming campaigns for any celestial body or object.
Even though the money is for a good cause the names for the Mars craters may never be officially approved by any governing agency.
However, the Uwingu Fund seems to be side-stepping the IAU, they state that the name need only be approved by the task group of the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature. Uwingu Fund does not even mention IAU on their website, however, they do have IAU claim stakes on the map of Mars so that no one accidentally buys a piece of real estate already spoken for.
Whether or not this project will have any official validity seems to be unclear at the moment, however, the idea is catching on. Even Newsweek has made a purchase they named TK, and they are joined by countless others looking to make their stake on the Red Planet and there seems to be plenty of real estate left for those looking to get in on it.
So, can you really buy a Mars crater for just 5 bucks? The answer seems to be yes and no at the moment. However, you can at least rest assured that whether or not you actually did name a crater on the Red Planet your money is going towards the further research and study of the Universe and its exploration.
By Adam Stier