On February 18, 2021, a car-sized robotic parachuted its way down to the surface of Mars to start trying to find indicators of historical life on the Red Planet. From that day on, the touchdown website the place NASA’s Perseverance rover plopped down turned referred to as Octavia E. Butler, named after the prolific science fiction creator behind many well-known titles corresponding to Parable of the Sower.
Ever since NASA started sending rovers to Mars, the house company has had a practice of naming options of the Martian terrain. These names have diversified from Indiana Jones, Barnacle Invoice, and Scooby-Doo to extra formal ones corresponding to Jezero Crater, named after a city in Bosnia and the Slavic phrase for “lake,” and Endurance, after the ship that carried Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica. Because it seems, there’s a way behind the house company’s naming insanity.
NASA has 1000’s of names for craters and hills on Mars, in addition to each boulder, pebble, and rock floor that the rovers come throughout. “The No. 1 motive we decide all these names is to assist the crew preserve observe of what they’re discovering every day,” Ashwin Vasavada, the Curiosity mission’s venture scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mentioned in a statement. “In a while, we are able to confer with the numerous hills and rocks by identify as we talk about them and finally doc our discoveries.”
Greater than 2,000 of these names have been authorised by the Worldwide Astronomical Union (the famously unpopular physique of scientists chargeable for downgrading Pluto to a dwarf planet), and are subsequently thought-about official. These official names additionally comply with a algorithm put forth by IAU, stating, for instance, that craters bigger than 37 miles (60 kilometers) are named after well-known scientists or science-fiction authors whereas smaller craters are named after cities with populations of lower than 100,000 folks, in response to NASA. Belva, an influence crater inside Jezero, which the Perseverance rover is presently exploring, is called after a West Virginia city.
Past the official names, NASA scientists get inventive with unofficial nicknames of smaller options that they encounter on Mars. The crew behind NASA’s InSight mission nicknamed a rock as “Rolling Stones Rock” after it obtained tossed round from the lander’s landing on Mars.
The nicknames aren’t all the time meant to be humorous, the Curiosity rover crew named a Martian hill after their colleague Rafael Navarro-González, who died from covid-19 problems.
Mission groups additionally generally decide a theme for websites on Mars, compiling lots of of nicknames associated to that theme. The Curiosity rover is presently exploring a sulfate-enriched area of Mars, which is paying homage to the Pacaraima Mountains, situated close to the border of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana. Consequently, the rover crew selected the primary South American quadrant theme for that area. In the meantime, the Perseverance rover crew picked nationwide park themes, choosing names such because the Rocky Mountain quadrant, which features a Powell Peak rock floor space.
Earlier missions adopted a extra informal naming course of, with random names like Cabbage Patch, Pop Tart and Yogi Rock getting used for the Sojourner rover mission (which landed on Mars in 1997). Certain, having a system in place is sweet, however you’ll always remember the place you final noticed the Yogi Rock on Mars.