Think your memes, videos and drawings are out of this world? Now you have the chance to make it literally so, with NASA preparing to send artistic expressions to the asteroid Bennu aboard the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
The campaign ‘We the Explorers’ invites the general public to create artworks inspired in the OSIRIS-REx mission. NASA will upload them into their hard drives and take them to Bennu.
The pieces “may take the form of a sketch, photograph, graphic, poem, song, short video or other creative or artistic expression”.
The initiative is not meant to be a message for extraterrestrial beings – surely any intelligent alien would immediately invade us if they saw what people post on Twitter these days. Rather, the campaign is meant to spark interest in space exploration through art, and to symbolise humans as a collective force traveling through the universe.
The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will launch in September, with the objective of travelling some 300,000 kilometres into space to intercept asteroid 101955 Bennu, take some samples and return to Earth in 2023.
OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer. The mission seeks to gather information about the formation and evolution of our solar system, attempting to answer questions about our origins and future.
Bennu is a 492-metre diameter, carbon-rich asteroid that may contain vital information to understand how life began. It was selected for study among other candidates because every six years it comes close to Earth – scientists even think there is a probability of impact with our planet in the year 2182.
The samples will enable scientists to determine the asteroid’s chemical and physical properties in order to devise an effective impact mitigation strategy if it becomes clear Bennu is going to collide with us (I guess NASA aren’t counting on Bruce Willis after all).
To upload your creation, post it to the mission’s Twitter (@OSIRISREx) or Instagram (@OSIRIS_REX), including the hashtag #WeTheExplorers. The deadline for sending your stuff is March 20, or “when capacity of the drive that will carry submissions to space is reached, whichever occurs first”.
This campaign is one of the various fabulous online goodies NASA has developed for the general public. My favourite is a service called ‘Spot the Station’, where they notify you every time the International Space Station flies over your location. Depending on the weather it can be seen at plain sight, but of course the experience rocks if you have a good telescope. I’ve seen it many times and it’s beautiful, romantic and geeky all at once.