Perseverance’s first Mars focus is a rock named using Navajo language



The Perseverance Mars rover has its eyes set on its first area of interest, a rock that’s been given the Navajo-inspired name Máaz, NASA shared Thursday.

Working with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, the Perseverance team has been naming different areas of Mars and points of interest relevant to the mission using the Navajo language. Aaron Yazzie, a Navajo (Diné) engineer on the mission team helped the crew get permission and collaborate with the Navajo Nation.

Before the rover’s successful landing in Jezero Crater, a spot now named after acclaimed sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler, the mission team divided up the area into zones named after national parks and preserves. Perseverance landed in Tséyi’, the zone named for Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona, an area in Navajo Nation that has geology reminiscent of the red planet.

The team has around 50 Navajo names to be used for findings. Yazzie put forward a handful of naming ideas for features including “bidziil” meaning “strength,” “hoł nilį́” meaning “respect,” and “tséwózí bee hazhmeezh” meaning “rolling rows of pebbles, like waves.” The translation for Perseverance is Ha’ahóni.

“This fateful landing on Mars has created a special opportunity to inspire Navajo youth not just through amazing scientific and engineering feats, but also through the inclusion of our language in such a meaningful way,” Yazzie said in the press release.

The names that have come out of the mission thus far aren’t official ones, just informal nomenclature used by NASA and the general public. Official names must be designated by the International Astronomical Union.

Due to the limitations of Perseverance’s programming language, the rover can’t quite store or read many of these exact Navajo words because of the accent marks needed to convey intonations. For now, the rover is keeping track without any accent marks.



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