Welcome to Máaz: NASA Names New Features on Mars in Navajo Language
March 15, 2021
The team behind NASA's Perseverance rover has been naming "features of scientific interest" with words in the Navajo language, NASA said Thursday. The team has been collaborating with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President. The first scientific focus of NASA's Perseverance rover is a rock named "Máaz" – the Navajo word for "Mars."
"Surface missions assign nicknames to landmarks to provide the mission's team members, which number in the thousands, a common way to refer to rocks, soils, and other geologic features of interest. Previous rover teams have named features after regions of geologic interest on Earth as well as people and places related to expeditions. Although the International Astronomical Union designates official names for planetary features, these informal names are used as reference points by the team," NASA said in a statement.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Vice President Myron Lizer, and their advisors made a list of words in the Navajo language available to the rover's team. Some terms were inspired by the terrain imaged by Perseverance at its landing site. Mission scientists worked with a Navajo (or Diné) engineer on the team, Aaron Yazzie of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, to seek the Navajo Nation's permission and collaboration in naming new features on Mars, the statement said.