Space, the final frontier — for advertising

Earth as viewed by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon, December 7, 1972.

TEXT OF STORY

LISA NAPOLI: Now that your holiday bills are just starting to roll in, I'm sure you've starting thinking, 'Valentine's Day . . .' Well, the mighty minds at MIT and Georgia Tech have something you might want to consider. Here's Sean Cole:


SEAN COLE: It was New Year's Eve 2005 and Thaddeus Fulford Jones, a PhD candidate at MIT's aerospace engineering program, was worried.

He and a bunch of other researchers were planning to test the effects of weightlessness on mammals by sending a satellite into orbit with 15 mice on board. So they were gonna need some money.

THADDEUS FULFORD-JONES: And suddenly I go, 'well we have this area on the spacecraft that's not really being used for anything and we're a private mission and so we can use the area on our spacecraft to show logos and recognize donors.

Clearly he had already started drinking.

FULFORD-JONES: No, I wasn't it was actually earlier in the day.

And once his colleagues realized he was sober, they thought he was nuts. But he wanted to try it. So after months of macheteing through the dense walls of red tape universities are famous for . . .

FULFORD-JONES: Here it is yournameintospace.org.

Yournameintospace.org, where you — yes you — can buy aaaaaddds iiiiiinnnn spaaaaaaace!

$35 per square centimeter on the bottom of the satellite, which looks kind of like an inverted ceiling fan. The more prominent and expensive areas will be photographed while it's in orbit.

FULFORD-JONES: And obviously we have cameras on the tips of the solar panels looking in.

Obviously.

Or you can have your name printed inside the satellite and that chunk will be hacked out and mailed to you when the thing comes back down. If it comes back down. All the logos on the outside will burn off upon reentry.

More than three dozen donors have signed up so far. Everyone from Lockheed Martin to a lovestruck guy named Adam.

FULFORD-JONES:"Wrapping the planet with my eternal love for Stacie" and that's from Adam.

COLE: It's like what you write on a bridge.

FULFORD-JONES: Yes.

But on a satellite it's just cooler somehow. At least that's what the Adams of the world have told Fulford-Jones.

FULFORD-JONES: They say I realize I can never go into space but if my name can that's the next best thing.

And for corporations there's the buzz factor of having their name on sponsor page of the website.

MARIE PLANCHARD: It is a buzz factor and we like that kind of buzz.

Marie Planchard is the director of education marketing for SolidWorks, which donated the software that's being used to design the satellite. In return, the company got 60 square centimeters for its logo.

PLANCHARD: People will see it on launch. People will see it in photographs, but it's not like a NASCAR event where you're going to see someone's logo go around a track every day.

Plus, this particular vehicle will cost $30 million to build and send on its way. But if all goes well, it'll be speeding around its global track a mere three years from now.

One small step for man, one giant leap for marketing.

In Boston, I'm Sean Cole for Marketplace.

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