Public Asked to Help Name Features on Pluto, SETI Institute
Keith's 6 April update: NASA has yet to mention this public engagement project on its own New Horizons website. Nor has JHUAPL. Gee, and there's only 1 day left. Next time perhaps SETI Institute and SwRI will actually get NASA's permission for things like this before they go off and tell others (IAU etc.) that they already have NASA's permission - permission they never had, according to NASA sources. There is a meeting between senior New Horizons mission staff and Charlie Bolden today. They will be talking about this issue ...
"The public has until Friday, April 24 to help name new features on Pluto and its orbiting satellites as they are discovered by NASA's New Horizons mission."
Keith's 6 April update: Funny how NASA did not say a thing about this activity until less than 24 hours before it was due to end - and only a few minutes after the meeting with Bolden concluded ...
Keith's 23 March note: Last week the SETI Institute unilaterally announced an effort whereby the public can suggest names for features discovered within the Pluto-Charon system. The IAU would have the final say as to which names were accepted. One small problem: NASA HQ was not in the loop for this major effort to name things discovered by a NASA spacecraft. It has been several days since SETI Institute made this announcement and there is no mention of this effort at the JHUAPL website, at the NASA mission website, at SwRI, or at NASA.gov. Only the personal Twitter account by the mission's PI mentions this effort. This press release was not distributed by NASA, JHUAPL or SwRI. The SETI Institute did not send this release out to their media list. A third party distributed the information well after it was "released" by SETI.
Sources I have spoken with at NASA HQ said that NASA was not aware that this news was being announced or that SETI Institute had decided (seemingly on its own) to do this project on NASA's behalf. Based on previous stunts it is quite clear that the New Horizons mission (again, a NASA mission paid for by NASA) has decided that it will make its own decisions on how the public will be involved - and that it is not up to NASA to coordinate these activities.
Yes, this is a cool idea. But it is foolish and counterproductive in the extreme for SETI Institute and the rest of the New Horizons team to leave NASA out of decisions regarding how citizens interact with one of its own missions.
Keith's 23 March update: What is strange about this effort is that you can only suggest names for features until 7 April 2015 - yet it will be months before anything of significance shows up on pictures. Only 2 weeks - with no coordinated or advance notice - to name major features on a bunch of new worlds? That seems rather odd. Can you imagine the people who explored and settled the American west stopping every time a landmark was encountered that needed a name - and then pulled out a list created before their departure to see if there was a pre-approved name that would work? Why not accept names during and after the encounter and then let the public and whatever quasi-official deliberative parties who need to weigh in do so? This whole process was clearly not well thought out - in addition to it not being coordinated with the owner of the spacecraft.
Keith's 24 March update: The IAU just issued this press release: "Campaign for Public Participation in Naming Features on Pluto" which states "This naming campaign is a partnership between the NASA's New Horizons (http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons) project, the SETI Institute (http://www.seti.org) and the IAU." Yet, as I noted yesterday, NASA makes zero mention of this on any of its websites or social media platforms. That is still the case. It has been 4 days since SETI Institute made this announcement. If this is a partnership between the IAU, SETI Institute - and NASA, then why has NASA yet to admit this? There is now less than 2 weeks for people to participate. Wouldn't you think that that NASA's Twitter account with over 9 million followers would be in use by now to promote this short term effort for one of their missions? But wait: as noted before, NASA HQ did not know that SETI Institute was making these deals with the IAU.