A company called Uwingu has for the past 10 weeks enabled people to name some 590,000 craters on Mars. For Mother’s Day, it’s running a “Mothers on Mars” promotion that gets mom a special certificate as well as her own crater name.
The cute campaign is part of a much more serious intention. By naming the craters on Mars, and charging fees of anywhere from $5 to $2,500 for each crater, Uwingu (the Swahili name for “sky”) hopes to promote interest and research in space sciences, and create a new source of funding for astronomy and space exploration.
“We took the public domain map of Mars, cataloged the 1,000 craters that have been named by scientists, and created a way for people to go in and name the rest,” said Alan Stern, co-founder and chief executive of Uwingu. He described Uwingu as “a limited liability corporation with a social mission.”
During the Bush administration, Mr. Stern was the associate administrator at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, directing NASA’s science programs. “I realized that NASA’s stock goes up and down, and the funding changes,” he said. “Many researchers depend on it. Things like medical and energy research have other places to go for funding; this is a way to get that for people who really love space.”
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