Still scrambling for a last-minute Christmas gift idea? You could always name a Mars crater for that special someone.
The space-funding company Uwingu is running a promotion that allows customers to create holiday versions of the certificates they receive when they purchase a name for a Mars crater.
"Know someone who has everything? Having problems thinking of new gift ideas for someone who loves space and astronomy? We have you covered at www.uwingu.com!" planetary scientist and Uwingu CEO Alan Stern, who also serves as the principal investigator for NASA's New Horizons Pluto mission, said in a statement.
Uwingu (whose name means "sky" in Swahili) is building a crowdsourced map of Mars that, if all goes according to plan, will be taken to the Red Planet by two private exploration efforts: the colonization project Mars One, and the student-led Time Capsule to Mars.
Uwingu is selling naming rights to the 500,000 or so largest craters on the Red Planet; prices depend on crater size, and begin at $5 for the smallest ones. To date, the public has named more than 18,500 craters.
The company also charges customers $9.99 to nominate a name for an exoplanet, and 99 cents to vote for these potential appellations.
Uwingu's stated chief goals are to increase interest in space science and exploration, and to raise money for research in these fields. Half of Uwingu's revenue goes toward this latter purpose. The company has given out grants totaling $130,000 thus far, Uwingu representatives said.
Names purchased via Uwingu are not "official" monikers recognized by the International Astronomical Union. To learn more, go to www.uwingu.com.