The fine folks at NASA are sending a spacecraft to the Sun, and they want to send a little piece of you along with it. Here's how to get your name on the ultimate "fry" list.
A memory chip containing a list of submitted names will be inserted into the Parker Solar Probe, which is scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center next year. You can be included on this Hot Ticket - get it, because the Sun is hot - by going here and submitting your name. It took me about 30 seconds to do it, and then NASA sent me this sexy certificate which I can now show off to you guys.
Yay, this means the 13 letters that signify my identity will be bombarded by the Sun's intense heat, solar winds, and high-energy radiation from December 2024 through to some point in late 2025 when the probe is likely to meet a flaming end. No humans will be able to join the Parker Probe for the journey, but at least our names can be incinerated in our stead.
This opportunity is so exciting that even Captain Kirk wants you to do it.
The spacecraft, named after astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will study the Sun in -- literally -- excruciating detail. Over the course of a year, the probe will fly close enough to measure changes in solar wind speeds, detect high-energy solar particles, and observe the structure of the Sun's magnetic fields. At its closest approach, the Parker probe will be 8.5 solar radii (that is, 8.5 times the radius of the Sun, or 6km/5.9 million km) from the Sun's surface, known as the photosphere. That's seven times closer than the previous proximity record, held by the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles (43 million km) of the Sun in 1976.
At this distance, the spacecraft will be exposed to temperatures exceeding 2,500 degrees F, (1,377 C). NASA will equip the probe with a 13cm-thick (11.4 cm) carbon-composite shield to protect its internal components and the memory chip containing your precious name. During its closest approach, the Parker probe will be zooming at 430,000 mph (700,000 k/hr), a speed that would get you from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia in one hot second.
The probe will launch aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket equipped with an upper stage sometime between July 31 and August 19, 2018. It will be flung towards Venus, where the spacecraft will use repeated gravity assists - seven orbits in seven years - to get ever-closer to its destination, the Sun's low solar corona, or atmosphere.
So how cool would it be to have your name on this thing? Submissions will be accepted until April 27, 2018, so don't waste an opportunity to have your name included: Send Your Name to the Sun.
Update: We were curious as to the ultimate fate of the probe, so we asked NASA for an explanation.
"The spacecraft will settle into a stable orbit around the Sun - however, at some point after the end of the primary mission, the spacecraft will be out of propellant and unable to make adjustments to keep the thermal protection system (TPS, or heat shield) properly oriented to protect itself," NASA Public Affairs Officer Geoffrey Brown told Gizmodo. So the probe will indeed fry at some point soon after the mission concludes in late 2025.