The MAVEN spacecraft is leaving for Mars in November. Along with scientific gear and advanced communication technologies, it will be bringing along some poetry. It could be yours.
NASA launched -- or, rather, opened -- the poetry contest on Wednesday. Anyone 18 or over can enter -- or, as the entry form puts it, "Anybody on planet Earth." No Martians allowed.
To enter, write a haiku that is a message to Mars. Haikus, of course, are three-line poems with a specific syllable count -- five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second, and five again in the third. Entries must be submitted by July 1.
NPR's Dave Mattingly wrote one to serve as an example:
Mars, you planet red
No life, just craters and ice
Dark, dark, dark, dark, goose
The public will have two weeks in July to vote on the haikus, and the three favorites will be sent to Mars. The consolation prize for those who don't win the contest is pretty good: Everyone who enters will have his or her name recorded onto a DVD that goes to Mars.
The MAVEN mission is designed to explore Mars' atmosphere. It's a NASA project with the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics acting as principal investigator -- and running the poetry contest.