ACE? Rigel? NASA wants help naming a 'Moonikin' that will fly around the moon

NASA is sending a manikin on its Artemis 1 mission to gather data about how astronauts will experience the flight around the moon.
NASA is sending a manikin on its Artemis 1 mission to gather data about how astronauts will experience the flight around the moon. (Image credit: NASA)

A moonbound 'manikin' that will fly on a forthcoming NASA Artemis program mission needs a name — and the agency wants your help.

Starting Wednesday (June 13), the "Name the Moonikin" competition began between eight names. Social media users on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram can choose their favorite in four brackets, voting between one of two names in each bracket. 

The competition's "final showdown" will occur on Monday, June 28, NASA said in a contest announcement.

Related: NASA is testing the first of its new moonwalking spacesuits (photos)

The manikin, or anatomical body, will be used inside NASA's Orion capsule to simulate the human body on Artemis 1, the uncrewed test mission that will fly around the moon. The manikin and the seat below it will have sensors embedded in them to measure acceleration, vibration and radiation. All told, the data will catalog the stresses of spaceflight during launch, the loop around the moon and the high-speed re-entry through Earth's atmosphere

"As part of the uncrewed Artemis 1 flight test, NASA is seeking to learn how best to protect astronauts for Artemis 2, the first mission with crew," NASA said in a separate statement. "The manikin flying on Artemis 1 will occupy the commander's seat inside Orion … and wear a first-generation Orion Crew Survival System suit — a spacesuit astronauts will wear during launch, entry, and other dynamic phases of their missions."

In the agency's words, here are the moniker contenders for the male-bodied manikin:

  •  Ace — "Straightforward, practical. Stands for Artemis Crew Explorer." 
  •  Campos — "Resourceful, problem-solver. A dedication to Arturo Campos, key player in bringing Apollo 13 home." 
  •  Delos — "Nostalgic, romantic. The island where Apollo and Artemis were born, according to Greek myth." 
  •  Duhart — "Warm, welcoming. A dedication to Irene Duhart Long, chief medical officer at Kennedy Space Center." 
  •  Montgomery — "Pioneer, innovative. A dedication to Julius Montgomery, first African-American to work at the Cape Canaveral Space Facility as a technical professional." 
  •  Rigel — "Bright, inspirational. The giant superstar in the Orion constellation." 
  •  Shackleton — "Secretive, abundant. A crater on the moon's south pole and a reference to a famous Antarctic explorer." 
  •  Wargo — "Enthusiastic, passionate. A dedication to Michael Wargo, the agency's first chief exploration scientist." 

The manikin won't be riding alone on the flight, NASA said in its contest announcement, as the uncrewed mission will also include two "phantom" vest-wearing dummy torsos to pick up more data from the flight. (One of the dummies was displayed in Washington, D.C. in October 2019 as part of the International Astronautical Congress.)

The phantoms are "made from materials that mimic human bones, soft tissues, and organs of an adult female," the agency stated. "Named Zohar and Helga by the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the phantoms will be supporting an investigation called the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE), which will provide data on radiation levels during missions to the moon."

Artemis 1 is a test mission in the larger Artemis program that seeks to put boots on the moon again, including the first woman and the first person of color. Artemis 1 has faced immense schedule pressure these past few months; it is supposed to launch late this year, but testing delays occurred during the certification of the Space Launch System rocket that will send Orion to space. 

The previous administration under President Donald Trump wanted to have the first humans land on the surface in 2024. While the new Joe Biden presidency hasn't yet committed to a landing date, NASA has signed new Artemis Accord agreements with Brazil, New Zealand and South Korea in recent weeks as the agency continues to work on the program.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: