Category Archives: Contests and Games

Enter name for Kuiper Belt object that New Horizons will visit in 2019

A new NASA naming contest:

Help Nickname New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target
NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt is looking
for your ideas on what to informally name its next flyby destination,
a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) past Pluto.

Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flying by 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. Early observations hint at the Kuiper Belt object being either a binary orbiting pair or a contact (stuck together) pair of nearly like-sized bodies with diameters near 20 and 18 kilometers (12 and 11 miles). Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Carlos Hernandez

On New Year’s Day 2019, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly past a small, frozen world in the Kuiper Belt, at the outer edge of our solar system. The target Kuiper Belt object (KBO) currently goes by the official designation “(486958) 2014 MU69.” NASA and the New Horizons team are asking the public for help in giving “MU69” a nickname to use for this exploration target.

“New Horizons made history two years ago with the first close-up look at Pluto, and is now on course for the farthest planetary encounter in the history of spaceflight,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We’re pleased to bring the public along on this exciting mission of discovery.”  

After the flyby, NASA and the New Horizons project plan to choose a formal name to submit to the International Astronomical Union, based in part on whether MU69 is found to be a single body, a binary pair, or perhaps a system of multiple objects. The chosen nickname will be used in the interim.

“New Horizons has always been about pure exploration, shedding light on new worlds like we’ve never seen before,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Our close encounter with MU69 adds another chapter to this mission’s remarkable story. We’re excited for the public to help us pick a nickname for our target that captures the excitement of the flyby and awe and inspiration of exploring this new and record-distant body in space.” 

The naming campaign is hosted by the SETI Institute of Mountain View, California, and led by Mark Showalter, an institute fellow and member of the New Horizons science team. The website includes names currently under consideration; site visitors can vote for their favorites or nominate names they think should be added to the ballot.

“The campaign is open to everyone,” Showalter said. “We are hoping that somebody out there proposes the perfect, inspiring name for MU69.”

The campaign will close at 3 p.m. EST/noon PST on Dec. 1. NASA and the New Horizons team will review the top vote-getters and announce their selection in early January.

Telescopic observations of MU69, which is more than 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth, hint at the Kuiper Belt object being either a binary orbiting pair or a contact (stuck together) pair of nearly like-sized bodies – meaning the team might actually need two or more  temporary tags for its target.

“Many Kuiper Belt Objects have had informal names at first, before a formal name was proposed. After the flyby, once we know a lot more about this intriguing world, we and NASA will work with the International Astronomical Union to assign a formal name to MU69,” Showalter said. “Until then, we’re excited to bring people into the mission and share in what will be an amazing flyby on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019!”

To submit your suggested names and to vote for your favorites, go to:

“Reach for the Stars” rocket competition winners to celebrate at Space Camp/US Space & Rocket Center

A report from the Reach for the Stars National Rocket Competition on the 2017 results:

Reach for the Stars

~ National Rocket Competition Winners to Celebrate at
Space Camp / US Space & Rocket Center

Contestants in the 11th annual Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition had to build and launch their own solid-fuel powered rocket at an event held in their area. The Competition promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) education and is run in memory of Christa McAuliffe / first Teacher-in-Space. Local Competitions were held by schools, scout troops, youth centers, museums, and rocket clubs across the country in this year long event.

In response to the nation’s call for more interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) activities – over 1500 kids across the nation participated in the eleventh annual Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition. At the end of the competition those who had the “Right Stuff”* were victorious. The annual Competition, for ages ten to eighteen, runs continuously.

Their rockets soar 200 feet into the air to return by parachute. The closest average landing to an on-field target wins the local event. The local winner’s results were forwarded to RFTS Competition headquarters to be compared to all entries received. The closest were declared the national winners.

Jessica Flowers, Lilianna Henry, Kyle Hughes, Sophia Jasso, Victoria Miterko and Jordyn Presley took the top honors this year. Joining the group will be Minnesota Civil Air Patrol cadet, Nathan Jones – one of last year’s winners.

The national winners will be invited to celebrate their success at Space Camp / US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. As part of the celebration they get to launch their rockets from Homer Hickam Field** under an October Sky. The winners will be presented a Space Shuttle Challenger commemorative medal with certificate signed by Astronaut Jon McBride. Captain McBride piloted the Challenger on her early missions.

With their families, the winners will continue their celebration; seeing the Pathfinder Space Shuttle, standing in the world famous Rocket Park, climbing the Mars Wall, riding the Astronaut Simulators and visiting the Challenger Astronaut Memorial – honouring the memories of those lost in the conquest of space.

Competition co-director, Kathy Colpas says,

We promise the national winners – memories to last a lifetime and bragging rights for generations to come. Launching their rockets from a memorable location and being honored under the historical Saturn V rocket allows us to fulfill our promise.

Jessica Flowers won her local competition at Prairie Trace Elementary in Carmel, Indiana under the direction of teacher Sandi Johnson.

Lilianna Henry and Victoria Miterko won their local events while competing at Citrus Springs Elementary in Citrus Springs Florida. Tina Hackey was the Competition host.

Kyle Hughes launched at Hockomock YMCA in N. Attleboro, Massachusetts with Associate Director of Children’s Services, Kim Jennings.

Sophia Jasso competed in Santa Ana, California at Mendez Fundamental Intermediate School under the direction of teacher, Andrea Earl.

Jordyn Presley took top honors while launching with Bagdad Elementary in Milton, Florida. This event was run by teacher Tammy Dillard. The Competition at this school was funded by a NASA grant through the Florida Space Grant Consortium.

Nathan Jones, a Civil Air Patrol cadet from the 130th Composite Squadron, Lakeville, Minnesota was one of last year’s national winners. He will attend this year’s celebration.

Several companies have joined together to provide unforgettable memories for the national winners of the annual Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition.

Without the generosity of these businesses, this winners’ celebration would not be possible.

Sponsors receive national recognition and the satisfaction of – Helping Kids Reach for the Stars. More information is available at .

Jack and Kathy Colpas, co-directors of the Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition are retired public school educators with over 50 years of classroom experience. “Our goal is to give kids the educational experience of building and launching a solid-fuel powered rocket. Our purpose is to foster an interest in model rocketry, STEM subjects and aeronautics. Our mission is to keep alive the memory of the first Teacher-in-Space, Christa McAuliffe.”

* Thomas Wolfe, The Right Stuff – (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) 1979

**Homer Hickam is the author of the inspirational memoir, Rocket Boys which became the movie October Sky.

Video: NASA art contest for kids 4 to 12 – Winning entries to go in commercial crew calendar

NASA is sponsoring a space art contest for kids ages 4-12 on the theme of astronauts flying on commercial crew vehicles to the ISS: Commercial Crew 2018 Calendar Artwork Contest | NASA

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is partnering with private companies to develop new spacecraft to fly astronauts on NASA missions to the International Space Station, and we want kids to have a fun way to learn more about this program while being creative!

The Commercial Crew Program is holding an artwork contest from Oct. 2 to Nov. 2 for children ages four to 12 years old. The winning artwork will be used to create a 2018 calendar, which has a different space-related theme for each month. The themes educate students about the International Space Station, astronauts, growing food in space and more! Unique and original artwork will be selected for each month. Once the calendar is complete, it will be transmitted to astronauts aboard the space station. The calendar also will include supplemental education materials for kids here on Earth to learn more about the space-related themes. 

Go to for more information about the competition’s themes, rules and deadlines plus the entry form. Get your parent’s permission, of course!


Spaceport America Cup – Collegiate rocket competition in New Mexico, June 20-24, 2017

The Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) and Spaceport America (near Las Cruces, New Mexico ) are sponsoring the Spaceport America Cup university student rocket competition, which will take place at the spaceport over June 20-24, 2017:

The Spaceport America Cup is designed around IREC – the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition for student rocketry teams from all over the country and around the world. With over 110 teams from colleges and universities in eleven countries, 2017 will be the competition’s biggest year yet. Students will be launching solid, liquid, and hybrid rockets to target altitudes of 10,000 and 30,000 feet.

In addition to the competition rocket launches, the interns at United Launch Alliance will be firing off their big rocket: United Launch Alliance Announces Payloads to Fly on World’s Largest Sport Rocket – 53-Foot-Tall Futu – ULA.

Sixteen payloads from K-12 schools and educational organizations throughout Colorado have been confirmed to fly on United Launch Alliance’s Future Heavy intern rocket this summer. The 53-foot-tall, high-power sport rocket launch will take place at Spaceport America, New Mexico, on Saturday, June 24, during its annual Spaceport America Cup International Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition in association with ESRA the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association.

Since 2009, ULA has teamed up with Ball Aerospace to offer its interns a real-world space industry experience by launching rockets and payloads (onboard instruments/experiments deployed after launch) they volunteer to build during their internships.

Update: Some articles about the event:


“Train Like a Martian Challenge”: Sign up for a week of activities for all ages

The Mars Generation is sponsoring the second Train Like A Martian Challenge event May 22-26, 2017:

Sign up now and join us for our second annual #TrainLikeAMartian event! We expect the event will be a blast!

#TrainLikeAMartian is an entire week of activities to bring awareness to the importance of STEM education, space exploration and physical fitness to students and adults around the world! This is a chance to have fun, spread an important message and also have a chance to win some cool prizes!

Prizes include TMG keychains, TMG magnets, TMG patches, TMG pins, TMG logo t-shirts, TMG logo sweatshirts and more! One lucky participant has the chance to win an OSMO Coding Jam, sponsored by STEM Genius Hour. We are excited to share that our grand prize is a Jade Robot by Mimetics valued at approximately $200 (USD). 

We are also raising funds to support the programs that The Mars Generation operates including sending students with financial need to Space Camp. Fundraising is not required to participate. We have special rewards for donors and fundraisers. Click here to see rewards.

Sign Up Now to qualify for prizes and also receive email updates for the Train Like A Martian Challenge!