Remember those nutbags that sold “real estate” on the moon, and other distant space rocks? I’m sure some of them still exist to rape people’s wallets, but their heyday has come and gone. Well, a different type of cosmic personalization has begun, albeit one with more coherent and unselfish goals in mind. Aiming to fund space research, exploration, and education, the cool-kid start-up company Uwingu has already made headlines for raising almost $80,000 through IndieGoGo.com, and had a buzz built around what the first functional product they would release would be.
Perhaps silly sounding at first, Uwingu is is letting space fans’ creativity thrive through user-submitted nominations, at 99 cents apiece, to name one of the nearly 800 confirmed planets across the universe. Unofficially, of course, though its seven co-founders, led by CEO Dr. Alan Stern, hope that astronomers and the International Astronomical Union (IAU) may one day take the voted-in names seriously, even if it’s only in an informal manner.
The current system of naming planets like lines on an eye exam isn’t user friendly, and probably doesn’t make astronomy appear relatable for those wary of science speak. But name a planet “Monty Python” and suddenly people start listening. Admittedly, a very specific kind of people.
The project’s physical end game is a “baby” planet name book filled with the more memorable titles. But really, this is about education and public funding. The Uwingu group has already pledged to donate half of all proceeds raised after the initial $75,000 to the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array (ATA), those massive radio dishes searching the skies for signs of extraterrestrial life.
It’s extremely encouraging to see the public funding route become such a successful way for people to help otherwise more difficult projects get made. From artistic projects to more charitable things, it’s becoming more obvious that people are more willing to pay to be a part of the process, over only receiving a final result. It’s humanity, wrapped in capitalism. Uwingu’s youth is on its side, and their willingness to take outsider proposals seriously could — pun intended — rocket them to new heights in no time, and may serve as an inspiration for other strong-minded scientists whose only frustrations are financial.
In the meantime though, go vote here for front-runner Heinlein, or maybe boost No More Taxes to the top of the pile if you don’t want to choose Barack Obama. But I’m telling you, if there isn’t a planet named Yuggoth in the next few years, you’ll see “Mi-go” crazy.