NASA hoping to probe Uranus and could start planning next year

Leave it up to the internet to come up with puns and ridiculous suggestions when asked for help in scientific naming competitions.

On Saturday (10 September), an unofficial Twitter account called Ice Giant Missions asked the public what they would name a new Orbiter and Probe mission to the planet Uranus.

The post listed previous mission names, including Voyager; Cassini-Huygens; New Horizons; Juno; and Perseverance. It added: "We want to know, what would YOU name the Uranus Orbiter & Probe Mission."

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However, people took a bit of an inappropriate approach, suggesting things such as Operation Butt Plug, Enema, and Colonoscopy One, and Probey McProbeface, taking inspiration from the boat named Boaty McBoatface.

Certainly, some people really did take on the challenge seriously and suggested appropriate names.

One person suggested William Herschel, the British astronomer who discovered Uranus.

But others pointed out that the name would most likely not be used because it was used for a European Space Agency mission.

Someone else wanting to pay homage to Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, wrote: "Gotta go with a great female explorer. Earhart is fitting, given she was the first pilot to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans."

Although NASA hasn't announced plans to voyage to Uranus, a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences called for the space agency to look into the distant planet.

Regarded as the Committee on the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey, the report considers a Uranus Orbiter and Probe as the highest-priority flagship mission.

Uranus, the seventh planet from the sun, is considered an "ice giant" with 17 known moons and a blisteringly cold minimum temperature of -371F.

The only spacecraft to visit the planet was NASA's Voyager 2 in 1986.

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