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NASA Wants You to Send Your Art to an Asteroid

The agency is looking for creative contributions as it readies its mission to study and sample a near-Earth asteroid

NASA's OSIRIS-REx project will send a craft to a near-Earth asteroid and take a sample to study back on Earth. (NASA)
smithsonian.com

What do artists and rocket scientists have in common? Hold the jokes, please—they share plenty of similarities. After all, both art and space exploration plumb the depths of human ingenuity and take the mind far beyond the boundaries of that which can be seen or imagined. Now, NASA has unveiled a way to combine the impulse to create and the desire to explore the depths of outer space with an invitation for the public to send their artwork to an asteroid.

The agency recently announced that it’s looking for artistic submissions to be sent to Bennu, an asteroid formerly known as 101955. Bennu is the target of NASA’s upcoming Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission, which will launch this September.

Chosen for its proximity to Earth, size and composition, Bennu will be the setting for one of NASA’s most ambitious missions yet—one that seeks to map, document, measure and even grab a sample from the asteroid for study. Scientists hope that a better understanding of Bennu will yield more information about the origins of the solar system and perhaps life itself—a proposition that already sounds pretty dang inspiring.

But it gets even more creative: Now, NASA is calling on members of the public to submit artwork that expresses what it means to be an explorer. Submissions to the agency’s “We Are the Explorers” project will be collected on the mission site, saved on a chip and launched along with the spacecraft destined to stay on Bennu for millennia.

“Space exploration is an inherently creative activity,” Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for the mission, in a release. She calls OSIRIS-REx a “great adventure”—just like the act of creating a piece of art. Who knows what researchers will find on the asteroid…or who (or what) might see your art once it escapes the bounds of Earth’s atmosphere?

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