NASA is inviting people to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard a spacecraft headed towards the asteroid Bennu in 2016.
The “Messages to Bennu!” microchip is going to the asteroid aboard the agency’s Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft.
The robotic mission is going to spend more than 2 years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid, and will collect a sample of Bennu’s surface and return it to Earth in a sample return capsule.
Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission from the University of Arizona in Tucson, said that they’re thrilled to be able to share the OSIRIS-REx adventure with people across the Earth, to Bennu and back.
After a person submits their name, they will be able to download and print a certificate documenting their participation in the OSIRIS-REx mission.
The OSIRIS-REx mission goal is to address basic questions about the composition of the very early solar system, the source of organic materials and water that made life possible on Earth, and to better predict the orbits of asteroids that represent collision threats to the Earth. It will collect a minimum of 2 ounces (60 grams) of surface material.
Once the sample return capsule deploys, the spacecraft will be placed into a long-term solar orbit around the sun, along with the microchip and every name on it.