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Ballot Update for March 21

posted Mar 22, 2015, 12:08 PM by Mark Showalter
The last 48 hours have been exhilarating for me as I watch the votes and the nominees coming in. Our web site statistics show votes coming in from nearly every country on Earth—and this is before we have finished rolling out all our foreign language translations. By the way, if your language is not represented and you want to help, you can email me at

We have added the first batch of new nominees to the ballot, so I encourage you all to take another look. There were so many great ideas that we had a tough time making up our minds. However, a few names stood out. If you go to the Discussion Forum and click on each theme, you will see a list of all the names on the ballot. Newly added names are at the top.

I have seen an outpouring of support for Mr. Spock, due to the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy. Note that Spock is on the ballot already, although grouped with the rest of the original crew of the Starship Enterprise. Look for "Kirk/Spock/Uhuru/Sulu/..." on the Fictional Explorers ballot. We have grouped related names just to keep the ballot from getting too long, but we will do our best to see that Spock gets special treatment on the map of Pluto or Charon.

The other amazing outpouring was for Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld novels, who died March 12. My friends have been raving about his books for years, but I never listened to them before. That will change soon. Sir Terry died so recently that we cannot add him to the list of authors and artists for consideration; the IAU requires three years to elapse first. But don't worry, we will still be naming features on Pluto in 2018. Meanwhile, some of Discworld's characters and places are now on the ballot.

Quite a few people noted the absence of names and places from Middle Earth. The reason is that many of these names are already used on the map of Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Titan already has a Mount Doom, for example. However, I looked at the fine print and whereas character names and mountain names are reserved for Titan, I think we might be permitted to use regional names (e.g., The Shire, Mordor, Gondor, etc.). There are also some names, places and creatures from Tolkein's underworld, so keep those suggestions coming in.

However, my favorite moments so far have been reading the thoughtful nominations of names I had not thought of. Yesterday, I read about Nasreddin, a whimsical thinker who appears in folk tales from the Middle East, eastern Europe and parts of Asia. I was reminded of Eleanor Arroway, whose dogged persistence led to our first contact with extraterrestials in the novel Contact, by Carl Sagan. I was also reminded that, to our embarrassment, we had overlooked Sputnik in our list of historic space missions.

Watch this space, because I will start posting some of my favorite nominations here.