Artist's concept of Deep Space 1

A $4,000 gift certificate for merchandise from CompUSA will go to the grand prize winner of a contest to name the two microprobes that comprise NASA's Deep Space 2 mission, which successfully launched in early January and are now headed toward Mars.

Participants in the contest can choose either two people from history (not living), characters from mythology or fiction, or two places or things that are in some way associated with each other, or a combination of any of the above elements. Submissions should be accompanied by a short written composition of up to 100 words explaining why the entries would make good names for the miniature probes. In the case of duplicate names, the judges' selection will be based on this composition. Final selection of the probe names will be made by NASA Headquarters.

The deadline is April 30, 1999 and NASA will announce the winners in early November this year. The top 25 finalists will receive one copy each of a Deep Space 2 poster signed by project team leaders. Complete rules, an entry form and further information about Deep Space 2 are available at or by writing to: Name the Mars Microprobe Contest, JPL, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, MS 301-235, Pasadena, California 91109.

Prize monies, provided by Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and CompUSA, will not be administered through NASA, but rather will go directly from the donating companies to the winner. Although NASA, JPL, International Technology Education Association, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and CompUSA employees and their families are eligible to enter and win the contest, they would not be eligible to collect the grand prize, which would go instead to the first runner-up.

Deep Space 2's probes are piggybacking on the Mars Polar Lander spacecraft, which launched January 3, and will impact and penetrate the surface of Mars this December. Each probe has an entry system consisting of a basketball-sized aeroshell with a softball-sized probe inside. Released from the cruise stage of the Mars Polar Lander, the probes will dive toward the surface of Mars. Unlike any spacecraft before, the probes will smash into the planet at speeds of up to 200 meters per second (400 miles per hour). Upon impact, the forebody of each probe will bury itself up to about one meter (three feet) underground, while the aftbody remains on the surface to transmit data through the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft back to Earth.

The purpose of the mission, which is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, is to flight-test new technologies to enable future science missions. If successful, Deep Space 2 will demonstrate innovative approaches to entering a planet's atmosphere, surviving a crash- impact and penetrating below a planet's surface. As a secondary goal, the probes will search for water ice under Mars' surface.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.

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