NASA naming new finds on Mars in Navajo language

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FILE – In this May 30, 2010 file photo, the vast landscape opens up inside Canyon de Chelly National Monument, near Chinle, Ariz. The Navajo Nation wants hundreds of remains exhumed from the canyon returned, alleging in a lawsuit filed Friday, Dec. 16, 2011 against the Interior Department that the federal government is illegally holding them in a collection.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, file)

ST. LOUIS–Mars maybe 147 million miles away from Earth, but it is sharing a special connection with the Navajo Nation. NASA says the Mars Perseverance rover mission has been naming features of scientific interest with words in the Navajo language. The first scientific focus is a rock named “Máaz”- the Navajo word for “Mars”.

NASA says surface missions like the give nicknames to landmarks to help team members refer to rocks, soils, and other geologic features of interest.

The Perseverance team divided the Jezero Crater landing site into quadrangles that are roughly one square mile. NASA says the team decided to name these quadrangles after national parks and preserves on Earth with similar geology.

This rock, called “Máaz” (the Navajo word for “Mars”), is the first feature of scientific interest to be studied by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance touched down in the section named for Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument which is in the heart of Navajo Nation.

Mission scientists worked with a Navajo engineer on the team to get the Navajo Nation’s permission and to collaborate in naming the new features on Mars.

The Perseverance team has a list of 50 names to start with. The team will work with the Navajo Nation on more names in the future as the rover continues to explore.

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