NASA wants to send your artwork to an asteroid

Get out your paintbrushes. Your artistic masterpiece could shoot through space on board a NASA mission to an asteroid.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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An artist's vision of NASA's asteroid-visiting spacecraft.


A NASA spacecraft is heading out on an epic mission later this year. It will visit an asteroid named Bennu, snag a small sample of the space rock, and bring it back to Earth. It all sounds like the makings of an animated Pixar movie.

The space agency isn't sending out OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) all on its lonesome. It wants to send the work of Earth artists with it. Art collected from space fans will be saved on a chip to venture out with the spacecraft.

NASA has some guidelines for would-be galactic Picassos. "A submission may take the form of a sketch, photograph, graphic, poem, song, short video or other creative or artistic expression that reflects what it means to be an explorer," the space agency specifies.

Artists can submit through Twitter and Instagram until March 20. Check out the complete guidelines on NASA's #WeTheExplorers site.

Bennu is a near-Earth asteroid, meaning it buzzes by Earth pretty closely during its journey through space. In 2013, it came to within just 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) of our planet. It's not likely to actually strike Earth anytime soon, but NASA wants to learn more about its composition to help scientists develop ways to prevent future asteroid impacts.

The art-on-a-chip will join another chip containing 422,000 names submitted through a campaign in 2014 called "Messages to Bennu." That's not all. NASA also collected a series of tweets and images for a time capsule that will be returned to Earth and opened in 2023.

Set for launch in September, OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to make contact with the asteroid in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023. The spacecraft will jettison the sample to our planet's surface and then head off to go into orbit around the sun, taking the chip full of artwork with it.

Just in case sending your art out on a spacecraft isn't epic enough, NASA's Dante Lauretta reminds us of this.

"We are inviting the world to join us on this great adventure by placing their artwork on the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, where it will stay in space for millennia."

Millennia. Hopefully aliens will stop to check out your masterpiece at some point.