Astronomers: No, You Can't Name Mars Craters

IAU won't recognize paid-for names

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 12, 2014 12:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – A plan to raise money by selling the names of Mars' craters has hit a snag: the organization in charge of naming craters on Mars and most other features in our solar system. The International Astronomical Union says Uwingu—a commercial venture that aims to raise money for space research—has no right to name astronomical objects and the 7,000 names that have been sold over the last 10 days will not be recognized, reports Phys.org, which notes that the IAU's naming process is a lengthy one, with only a thousand of the half-million or so craters on Mars named over the last 50 years.

"Such initiatives go against the spirit of free and equal access to space, as well as against internationally recognized standards," the IAU explained. "Hence no purchased names can ever be used on official maps and globes." The co-founder of Uwingu fired back at the IAU. The body needs to "stop being the self-licking ice cream cone of the scientific community, and recognize that as long as its existence is merely to gratify its own puritanical principles and sense of elitism, it is not going to be a part of the next wave of space exploration," he tells NBC. The company says it hopes to raise $10 million this year by selling crater names for prices ranging from $5 to $5,000, depending on the size.

Mars' Gale Crater, one of the thousand or so named craters on the planet.
Mars' Gale Crater, one of the thousand or so named craters on the planet.   (AP Photo/NASA)
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