SIRTF. Does it stand for Single Intelligent Romanian Tall Female? Seattle Inter-Rail Transit Flux? Simple Red Telephone Fixture? In fact, the acronym is short for Space Infrared Telescope Facility, NASA's fourth and final satellite in the Great Observatories Program. Sometime next year the agency plans to launch the craft into space, where it will join the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. But before the big send-off, NASA is hoping to give SIRTF a new, easier-to-remember name¿and they're asking for your help.
"We are hoping to tap the creativity of the public to find a name suitable for this important mission that will help enrich our knowledge of the universe," says Doris Dauo, an education and public outreach representative for the mission. The deadline for nominations is December 20, 2001. You must submit a mission name and a short essay explaining your choice electronically at http://sirtf.caltech.edu/namingcontest. According to NASA rules, names of current or proposed missions¿as well as the names of living people¿cannot be used.
If you win, NASA will fly you to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the observatory's launch. Up to 200 semi-finalists will receive letters of recognition and educational kits, and all participants can print out personalized certificates. Good luck