Want a piece of Mars? It'll only cost you five bucks.
On Friday, a space-centric start-up called Uwingu launched a project to name 500,000 previously anonymous Red Planet craters. The craters, Uwingu says, have been mapped in the course of various NASA and European exploratory missions, but have not yet been bestowed with official monikers. Prices start at $5 for the privilege of slapping your name on a minor dimple, and extend up into the thousands for especially large potholes.
For now, Uwingu says the focus will remain on craters, but in the future, the company could allow users to name canyons, valleys, and Mars mountains.
"Duplicate names are allowed in different Districts and Provinces, on Mars just as street names in different cities on Earth can be the same," Uwingu's Ellen Butler wrote in a blog post. "So if someone has already used a name you want to use – no problem – just make sure the crater you name is in a different part of Mars than where someone else named a crater the same thing."
Proceeds go to the Uwingu Fund, which helps fund space-related research.
It's worth noting, of course, that although Uwingu will give you a digital certificate for purchasing a crater, the company's interplanetary authority is questionable, to say the least.
Last year, after Uwingu staged an exoplanet-naming initiative, the International Astronomical Union, or IAU, issued a strongly-worded statement saying that Uwingu had no ability to influence the naming process. "Any naming system is a scientific issue that must also work across different languages and cultures in order to support collaborative worldwide research and avoid confusion," reps for the organization said.
Which is not to say you shouldn't slap your name across some distant Mars real estate. Feel free! You should just know that the whole thing is more in the spirit of fun (and philanthropy) than anything else.