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NASA Spitzer Space Telescope • Jet Propulsion Laboratory
• California Institute of Technology
• Vision for Space Exploration
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Spitzer Space Telescope Naming Contest

The Spitzer Space Telescope got its name through a public naming contest. Participants were asked to suggest a new name for the Observatory (which was then going by the acronym SIRTF, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility) and to write a short essay in support of their suggestion. Over 7,000 entries were submitted in the contest, which closed in late 2001.

Entries by country
38 percent of the entries in the naming contest came from outside the United States.

After the contest closed, all the entries were reviewed by staff members at the Spitzer Science Center (then called the SIRTF Science Center), and 161 essays were selected as semi-finalists. The people who submitted these names and essays all received a package of outreach materials from the SSC Education and Public Outreach group.

Most popular submitted names
The winning name had only one entry suggesting it.

In mid-2002, the semi-finalists were carefully reviewed by a committee of program managers, external science writers and communicators, and educators. Six proposed names (eleven entries) were chosen as finalists, and forwarded on to NASA. The finalist entries were chosen on the committee's opinions of the merits of both the proposed name and the accompanying essay. The Spitzer Science Center and NASA would like to congratulate these eleven finalists, Yvette Cendes ("Sagan"), Richard Jackson ("Kelvin"), Richard O. Lease ("Sagan"), Gerald McKeegan ("Payne"), Glenn Martin ("Spirit"), Melissa Roden ("Leighton"), Ken Rogers ("Spirit"), Jeremy Smola ("Payne"), Jay Stidolph ("Spitzer"), Emilio Trampuz ("Kelvin"), and Kelly York ("Leighton").

The finalists were all informed of the status of their essays, and all received a package of "SIRTF" items. The final step in the process was for NASA to select the winning essay and to fly that winner to Cape Canaveral, Florida, to watch the launch. NASA selected the essay by Jay Stidolph of British Columbia, Canada, in favor of the name "Spitzer" as the winning entry:

It is my belief that spacecraft should always be named after either a person who has dedicated themselves to the pursuit of science, or a name from history that has special significance to the builders of the craft. In this case, I would like to propose to you that the former is more suitable. My suggestion for the renaming of SIRTF is the Spitzer Deep Space Observatory, named for Dr. Lyman Spitzer. Dr. Spitzer is, I believe, the father of the modern space-based telescope. Dr. Spitzer's revolutionary paper, written in the 1940's, was the first to propose the idea of putting telescopes into space, and thus above the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere, which not only revolutionized the science of astronomy, but it also pulled back the atmospherically induced blinders we had lived with for so long and reveiled the true wonder and beauty of the universe. The hard-won science and images of breathtaking beauty that have been garnered from the Hubble Telescope have helped bring millions of supporters to the space program and taught us things about the universe, which we might never have discovered without it. This only serves to drive home the appropriateness of naming SIRTF after a man like Dr. Spitzer, who, I'm sure, would be thrilled to have a space-based telescope bear his name. I sincerely hope you will do him this honor. Thank you for your consideration.

On December 18, 2003, NASA announced that the new name of the Observatory would, in fact, be the Spitzer Space Telescope, in honor of Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr.



The Spitzer Space Telescope is a NASA mission managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This website is maintained by the Spitzer Science Center, located on the campus of the California Institute of Technology and part of NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center. Privacy Policy

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