The European Space Agency is asking people to choose a name for British astronaut Tim Peake’s next mission to the International Space Station. (BBC)
Any name is going to have a hard time topping this.
- The European Space Agency (ESA) competition to name Tim Peake’s mission is open to citizens or residents of all ESA member states. (Take a look here for a list.) The United States, certainly a leader in space exploration, isn’t a member. Why not?
- We have NASA! The ESA is the organization that promotes space research and technology among Western European states. And Canada. Here are other leading space agencies:
- According to the BBC article, names for ESA missions are usually related the the astronaut’s nationality, and need to be short. ESA advisers recommend no more than two words. Peake is from the United Kingdom—specifically, the country of England. England has a long history of scientific research and exploration! What are some of the many possibilities for mission names that honor this heritage?
- My favorite suggestion, and one of the most obvious, is “Newton,” honoring persnickety physicist Isaac Newton.
- Another favorite is “Starman,” inspired by the David Bowie song. That’s an awesome idea, but Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield kind of ruined all other space explorers for Bowie tributes.
- The leading candidate is “Beagle,” referencing the ship on which naturalist Charles Darwin did such revolutionary work on the origin of species.
- How about “Franklin,” honoring undersung molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin?
- How about “Ada” or “Turing” (after Ada Lovelace or Alan Turing), recognizing England’s historic contributions to computer science?
- NASA used names from the Greco-Roman pantheon for its legendary missions—Mercury, Gemini, Apollo. Britain’s native pantheon (Celtic, Pictish, etc.) isn’t quite as well-known . . . . Camulus, anyone?
- How about “Arden,” recognizing Shakespeare’s enchanted forest?
- What about some Arthurian language? Excalibur?
- Great Britain has a long history of pioneering science fiction writers—”Clarke” (for Arthur C. Clarke), “Wells” (H.G. Wells), for instance? Why stop there? How about “Dumbledore” or “Snape” or “Hermione“?
- The ESA also recommends acronyms, a naming convention NASA loves. There’s MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging), POES (Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellite), SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) and STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) . . . Can you think of any acronyms for Peake’s mission? Read about Tim Peake, his mission, or the ISS for some ideas. Here are some quick ones to get you started.
- EAST (English ASTronaut)
- HELPS (HELicopter Pilot in Space)
- BASIS (British AStronaut on the ISs)
- SEASON (Scientific English AStronaut in Orbit for the New year)
- BRO (British Redhead in Orbit)
- TIES (TIm the Enchanter in Space)