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Smaug to go into space

NASA‘s New Horizons proposals will use fictional characters and locations, including from Tolkien’s Middle-earth, to name features of Pluto and its moons next week.

Launched in 2006, the New Horizons space probe has been flying through the solar system on a mission to explore dwarf-planet Pluto, its moons and the surrounding area. Having already explored Jupiter, it is now approaching Pluto and is due to fly past Pluto and its moons Charon, Hydra, Nix, Kerberos and Styx on 14th July.

Anticipating the discovery of many new geological features, the New Horizons team have, with the help of the Our Pluto project, drawn up a list of proposed names following over 60,000 online votes. Under the rules, the person/organisation who discovered the features has the right to name them, but they have to be approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). They are seeking “pre-approval” for what they hope to discover in a few days’ time.

In their proposed themes for Pluto, they have “Underworld beings” which includes Morgoth and Balrog as suggestions; for Charon a theme is “Fictional Origins and Destinations” which includes Shire and Mordor; and for Hydra the theme is “Legendary Serpents and Dragons” which includes Smaug.

It’s not just Tolkien that features, though. Other notable suggestions include: Niflheim in the “Underworlds and Underworld Locales” theme; Heracles in the “Travelers to the Underworld”; Kirk, Spock, Skywalker, Dorothy and Alice in “Fictional Explorers and Travelers”; Gallifrey, Krypton, Hoth, Tatooine and Vulcan in “Fictional Origins and Destinations”; Tardis, Argo, Dutchman, and Galactica in “Fictional Vessels”; and Toto in “Dogs from Literature, History and Mythology”.

HT: NBC News

About the Author: Shaun Gunner
Shaun is the Chair of The Tolkien Society. First elected in 2013, Shaun has overseen the Society's expansion from 600 to 3,500 members. Shaun regularly speaks about adaptations of Tolkien's works and the future of Tolkien scholarship whilst passionately believing the Society needs to reach out to new audiences. In his spare time he can be found playing video games and Lego, or on Twitter. He chaired another charity, Mankind, and is a local councillor.