NASA has announced the start of a contest to name its Deep Space 2 mission's two microprobes, scheduled to be launched next month on journey to Mars.
"Just as Mars Pathfinder's Sojourner rover received its name through a contest, we would like to invite the public to become involved in helping to name Deep Space 2's twin probes," said Project Manager Sarah Gavit of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "What better way to involve school children and parents alike in this exciting, one-of-a-kind mission?"
Deep Space 2, launching with the Mars Polar Lander on January 3, will send its two microprobes to impact and penetrate the surface of Mars in December 1999. Each of its two entry systems consists 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. 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 orbiting Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft back to Earth.
Unlike any spacecraft before, the Deep Space 2 probes will smash into the planet at speeds of up to 200 meters per second (400 miles per hour). The mission's main purpose is to flight- test new technologies to enable future science missions -- demonstrating 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.
Participants in the probe naming contest can choose either two people from history, mythology or fiction (not living) or two places or things that are in some way associated with each other, or a combination. Their choices should be accompanied by a short written composition of up to 100 words explaining why their entries would make good names for the miniature probes.
"The names should symbolize our exploration of the universe, embodying the spirit of risk-taking pioneers breaking barriers," explained Gavit. Complete details, along with on-line entry forms and further information about Deep Space 2, are available at http://nmp.jpl.nasa.gov/ds2/ .
The deadline is April 30, 1999, and winners will be announced the following November. Finalists will receive one copy each of a Deep Space 2 poster signed by the project team.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California.
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