Names for interplanetary vehicles can be as unique as their designs. Sometimes, such as with Sojourner Truth rover honoring an American civil rights pioneer, names are chosen through competition.
NASA has long had a tradition for selecting names for spacecraft since the early 1960s. Spaceship names often draw inspiration from ancient deities or ships of exploration from the Age of Exploration era.
Reconnect with nature while finding inspiration in our solar system for a truly original space name. Take inspiration from its stars and planets when thinking of your perfect name!
Nicolaus Copernicus – This famed astronomer developed the model of Earth orbiting around the Sun known as Copernican heliocentrism and observed comets and other celestial phenomena. Buzz Aldrin – One of two men to land on the Moon for the first time.
Carina (Latin for beloved), this beautiful girl’s name and constellation name, was also one of Ceres (an ancient Roman goddess associated with agriculture and motherly relationships) and Cassiopeia (a queen in Greek mythology).
Other celestial-themed spacecraft names include:
Apollo is the name of the Moon’s natural satellite. Skye, a Scottish Isle with celestial significance. Castor (second brightest star of Gemini constellation). Cygnus (a constellation in Northern celestial hemisphere).
Mythology and folklore
Real spacecraft have often taken their names from mythological sources; Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules were each named for Greek gods while Star Trek ships such as USS Enterprise are often named after famous battleships from history.
JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission to the asteroid Ryugu took inspiration from fairy tales for its name; Otohime from Otohime of Otohime was chosen as its namesake while Ouroboros is named as its landing site – both terms meaning dragon or serpent swallowing its tail.
The Planetary Society facilitated name collection for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. Participants had the option to have their names included on target markers dropped onto an asteroid and inside its sample return capsule, due back in 2020. A DVD containing names was attached to Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers by way of Spirit Society name collection hardware at no cost to NASA – this marked the first time private equipment was included on an American space mission!
Science fiction subgenres
Science fiction is an expansive field that spans various themes and subgenres. This can range from exploring how scientific advancement affects society (using it as an allegory) to tales about alien invasion or space travel.
Time travel is another mainstay in this genre. From traveling into the past or future to altering timelines to create different realities, time travel stories often explore this theme.
Military science fiction (or military fantasy) explores both the technology and politics behind warfare. This genre may feature stories of heroic military service members or may raise concerns over potential catastrophic, even cosmic-scale effects of war.
Technological science fiction centers around a specific technological advance and its consequences. This can range from genetic splicing to FTL technology; often this subgenre does not take into account scientific plausibility – for instance The Island of Doctor Moreau or cyberpunk that marries technology with desire are examples.
Space exploration is a serious business, risking astronauts’ lives and millions in investments. This is often symbolized by the names of rockets and spacecraft used to conduct exploration – Atlas, Saturn, Delta, and Soyuz are all names associated with strength and authority.
Aspiring spaceship explorers may also give their spacecraft more personality by giving it the name of one of their famous ships from 18th-century British explorers – this will add excitement and sense of discovery into their mission!
As part of its preparation to land on asteroid Itokawa in 2005, JAXA’s Hayabusa spacecraft released two shiny target markers. One marker contained an electronic microchip containing 877,490 names collected by The Planetary Society and JAXA for inclusion on their mission as well as a message from scientists involved with that mission; another copy flew by Pluto and Kuiper belt object Arrokoth on New Horizons before heading into interstellar space.