As a way to honor Native Americans -- and, particularly, a Navajo engineer on the Mars Rover Perseverance team -- NASA is naming points of interest on Mars using the Navajo language.
The latest NASA rover to land on Mars is currently focusing on a rock named after the planet it’s on -- but in Navajo. The rock is called “Maaz,” which means “Mars” in the Navajo language.
The Navajo engineer on the Perseverance team helped get permission and collaboration from his tribe to use the names. So far, Navajo leaders have provided 50 names that NASA can use, such as “tséwózí bee hazhmeezh,” or “rolling row of pebbles, like waves.” Other suggestions included “bidziil,” which means “strength,” and “hoł nilį,” which means “respect.”
Welcome to “Máaz.”— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 11, 2021
My team is working with the Navajo Nation and @NNPrezNez, who are sharing their language to help us informally name features I’m exploring on Mars, like:
tsé łichíí (red rock)
séítah (amongst the sand)
Learn more: https://t.co/lqy0K1zz6N pic.twitter.com/B50gfRNR3D
The Navajo names being used on Mars are technically considered informal. Official names of planetary features must be agreed upon by the international astronomical union.
NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance successfully landed on Feb. 18 near an ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient microscopic life. Perseverance is now the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars since the 1970s, and each of those spacecrafts have been from the U.S.
Over the next two years, the rover will collect rock samples containing possible signs of bygone microscopic life, which will eventually be retrieved by another rover and brought back to Earth by another rocket ship.