NASA is emphasizing the Navajo language with its latest Mars mission.
After a successful landing on the Red Planet February 18, NASA’s Perseverance is exploring, with his gaze fixed on a rock called “Máaz”, the Navajo word for “Mars”. The team behind the rover is in collaboration with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, and together they named several features on the surface of Mars using words in the Navajo language.
Mission scientists at NASA teamed up with Navajo (or Diné) team member Aaron Yazzie, an engineer for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission at the agency Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to seek permission and cooperation from the Navajo Nation to appoint these positions. (Yazzie built the drill bits that the rover will use to collect samples on the planet.) President of the Navajo Nation Jonathan Nez, Vice President Myron Lizer and their advisers listed Navajo language words that NASA teams could use for the mission.
“The partnership that the Nez-Lizer administration has built with NASA will help revitalize our Navajo language,” said President Nez said in a NASA statement“We hope that using our language in the Perseverance mission will inspire more of our young Navajo people to understand the importance and meaning of learning our language. Our words were used to help win World War II , and now we’re helping you navigate and learn more about the planet Mars. “
Assigning names to local landmarks on Mars makes it easier for mission team members to refer to elements such as rocks and soils. While the planetary features have formal names given by the International Astronomical Union, these informal names are used by the team.
“This fateful landing on Mars has created a special opportunity to inspire Navajo youth, not only through amazing scientific and engineering feats, but also through the incorporation of our language in such a meaningful way,” Yazzie said in the NASA statement. .
The Navajo Nation team provided the rover team with a list of 50 words they could use to start with, and will work together on more names as the rover investigates more. This list includes names like ‘Máaz’ and ‘tséwózí bee hazhmeezh’ (meaning ‘rolling rows of pebbles, like waves’), ‘bidziil’ (meaning ‘strength’), and ‘hoł nilį’ (meaning ‘respect’). The Navajo Nation team even recorded the Navajo language word for “Persistence,” which translates to “Ha’ahóni.”
The rover would land in one of the many quadrilaterals mapped on a grid Crater lake, with each ‘quad’ measuring approximately 1.5 square kilometers. They named these quads after natural areas on Earth with similar geological features, and persistence eventually ended up in the quad that’s named after Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument, or Tséyi in the Navajo language, which is at the heart of the Navajo nation. lies.
In order for persistence to identify these characteristics in the Navajo language, it must learn the language. However, the limitations of the English language cannot fully express the intonation and accents in the Navajo words, so the team is working on translations that better reflect Navajo spelling. Meanwhile, they use English letters to represent the Navajo words. Mission scientists and team members also take this opportunity to learn Navajo words.
“This collaboration encourages the rover’s science team to think more about the names being considered for objects on Mars – what they mean both geologically and for humans on Earth,” said JPL’s Perseverance Deputy Project Scientist Katie Stack Morgan in the same article. statement.
Space.com spoke with Yazzie at JPL on Feb. 18 immediately afterward the successful landing of the rover, which will look for signs of ancient life on Mars. “We are so excited, I am so relieved, this is such a great day,” Yazzie told Space.com.
“It feels unreal and it is unreal to be part of such a historical story [mission]”Added Yazzie.” It feels like we are contributing knowledge to the whole world on behalf of humanity. The possibility of finding ancient microbial life on Mars, [it] would be a huge discovery and I am so excited to even have a small part in that discovery. “
“We are very proud of one of our own, Aaron Yazzie, who plays a critical role in NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission,” said President Nez. “We are excited for the NASA team and for Aaron and we see him as a great role model who will spark more interest in the STEM fields of study and hopefully inspire more of our young people to pursue STEM careers for even greater impact. and contribute, just as Aaron does. As the mission continues, we offer our prayers for continued success. “
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