Earhart, Tempest or MUSE?
Fans of planet Uranus have many suggestions to name another mission there, if a casual Internet poll is any indication.
ExploreIGO, a Twitter fan account specialized in icy worlds, asked its community yesterday what things to call a spacecraft visiting the big blue world.
“You want to know, what can you name the #Uranus Orbiter & Probe Mission?” the account asked (opens in new tab), generating thousands of likes, retweets and comments. That name the account references can be an early stage proposal for NASA to finally revisit the earth that hasn’t seen an up-close view since Voyager 2 swung by in 1986.
Embedded with the tweet is really a cover predicated on a 2021 proposal by three scientists led by Amy Simon, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The group told the U.S. decadal survey of planetary science a spacecraft to Uranus is really a “journey whose time has come.”
Uranus was voted the very best destination by the city in April following this proposal process, that was led by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The decadal committee needed a $4 billion flagship mission combining a Uranus orbiter and probe, to look at the icy giant’s wild weather and enigmatic features from close up. It might be the 1st time an inferior icy gas giant gets an in depth mission, after others visited the much bigger Jupiter and Saturn.
The mission, if accepted, would leave Earth in 2031 roughly and take 13 years to go to the outer solar system, but unlike Voyager, it could orbit Uranus for several years rather than just swinging by. However the mission is in no way a done deal. It needs funding and a way of measuring scientific and technical will to have the ambitious spacecraft proposal together.
For the time being, observatories just like the Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory continue steadily to observe Uranus from afar to check out its atmosphere, rings and moons.
The tentative nature of the Uranus mission didn’t stop Twitter from sharing its naming ideas. Community favorites (opens in new tab) reference from Shakespeare to polar exploration to the space shuttle program. A few examples include:
- Caroline, after astronomer Caroline Herschel; she worked alongside her brother William, who’s popularly credited as locating the first two known moons of Uranus;
- Discovery, after NASA’s most-flown space shuttle (which itself was named after among the two ships utilized by British explorer James Cook when he ‘discovered’ Hawaii);
- Earhart, after aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart;
- Endurance Orbiter and Shackleton Probe, which will be the ship and leader (respectively) of the Ernest Shackleton expedition to Antarctica in 1914-17
- M.U.S.E, an acronym for Mission Uranus Science Expedition;
- Se7en, an homage to its seventh planet position from sunlight plus a 1995 thriller starring Morgan Freeman;
- Tempest, following the Shakespeare play. (Uranus moon names (opens in new tab)traditionally result from Shakespeare characters, or characters from Alexander Pope’s “Rape of the Lock.”)
And yes, there have been a lot of butt joke names for the Uranus probe, but we opted to spotlight a few of the more surprisingly restrained ones.