|Update, October 2015: The JAXA panel has selected Ryugu as the name for asteroid 1999 JU3. In ancient Japanese lore, the hero Taro Urashima brought back a casket from the underwater Ryugu Castle, just as Hayabusa 2 will bring samples home from this asteroid. Read more in the JAXA press release.|
Help scientists name the Japanese spacecraft's target asteroid.
When it comes to nomenclature, public participation in space missions is often the rule, not the exception. The Space Shuttle Endeavour, the Curiosity rover, and even (preliminarily) features on Pluto have all received names chosen by enthusiastic members of the public — often schoolchildren.
Following in this tradition, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is asking for name suggestions for asteroid 1999 JU3, to which the agency’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is en route. Hayabusa 2 aims to nab samples from the 900-meter-wide rock and return them to Earth. And with all due respect to the Minor Planet Center folks (I mean that sincerely: you guys are great), such a venture takes on an extra oomph when the rock has a more imaginative appellation than 1999 JU3.
You can submit ideas online before August 31st, 10:00 a.m. Japanese Standard Time (UTC + 9 hours). Names must adhere to the guidelines set by the International Astronomical Union, and the final name will be chosen by a multi-tiered judging process.