You could have the chance to name an space rock. There’s a near-Earth asteroid that currently bears the not-so-pronounceable name (101955) 1999 RQ36. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. In a partnership with NASA, The Planetary Society is offering you the chance to give it a better name!
In 2016, NASA plans to launch a probe toward RQ36, collect a sample, and return it to Earth. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft aims to test the composition of asteroids like this one, to give us clues to the evolution of the early solar system, and maybe a few hints on how we could redirect or destroy one.
That’s because RQ36 has a verrrrrrrry small, but non-zero chance, of (maybe) hitting Earth in a couple hundred years. The chances are extremely miniscule, and nothing to worry about, but it’s a reminder that asteroid collisions with Earth are a matter of “when” … not “if”. Sooner or later, perhaps when humans still run the planet, we will have to deal with an impending collision. The more we know about asteroids’ makeup, the better tools we can develop to not only divert them, but study them.
Want to name the asteroid? Visit the Planetary Society’s contest page to check out the rules (there’s just a few), and good luck. What would you name it?