If you want to make it to the moon but don't have the chops to be an astronaut, the deadline is approaching to at least send your name around Earth's orbiting rock.
June 27 marks the last day to enter your information on the Web to send your name to the moon with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Your name will be incorporated in a database and loaded onto a microchip built into the LRO spacecraft. The service is free and comes with a printable certificate assuring you that you are indeed a part of the LRO experience.
LRO is the first step in sending humans back to the moon, according to Cathy Peddie, deputy project manager for LRO at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The orbiter will scope out landing sites and resources, and also study the effects of lunar radiation on humans. The orbiter is slated to launch no earlier than November and will orbit for at least a year.
The idea of sending your name into the cosmos, among other items, isn't new.
In August 2006, commercial space company Up Aerospace sent 110 pounds of souvenirs and science projects into space for 30 minutes. The Planetary Society has partnered with NASA and Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory for the "Messages from Earth" project several times before.
The current resident of Mars, the Phoenix Lander, also contains names of people who signed up to be a part of the mission. The last orbiter of the moon, Selene, also included names on a microchip. According to its Web site, "The Planetary Society is committed to bringing you on board each and every mission launched into space from Earth."
And if all the people in the promo video for NASA are to be believed, this will be a popular trip. A day after I signed up to join the mission, Nancy Neal Jones of the Goddard Space Flight Center said the number has topped 784,000. She said the project has gone international, with names submitted from all over the planet.