The workforce of scientists and engineers behind NASA’s Curiosity rover named a hill alongside the rover’s path on Mars in honor of a just lately deceased mission scientist. A craggy hump that stretches 450 toes (120 meters) tall, “Rafael Navarro mountain” is positioned on Mount Sharp in northwest Gale Crater.
The inspiration for the identify is award-winning scientist Rafael Navarro-González; he died on Jan. 28, 2021, from problems associated to COVID-19. A number one astrobiologist in Mexico, Navarro-González was a co-investigator on the Pattern Evaluation at Mars (SAM), a transportable chemistry lab aboard Curiosity that has been sniffing out the chemical make-up of Martian soil, rocks, and air. As such, he helped lead the workforce that recognized historic natural compounds on Mars; his many accomplishments additionally included figuring out the position of volcanic lightning within the origin of life on Earth. Navarro-González was a researcher at Nuclear Sciences Institute on the Nationwide Autonomous College of Mexico in Mexico Metropolis.
“We’re actually honored to have a distinguished hill named after our dad; it is his and our dream come true to see this occur,” wrote Navarro-González’s kids, Rafael and Karina Navarro Aceves, in a press release to NASA. “Ever since our mother and father met, their desires merged collectively they usually turned a lovely workforce, working very onerous for 36 years. Our dad was an achieved scientist, however above all, a fantastic human being who managed to stability work and household. Our mother, Faby, would all the time inform him that his identify sooner or later can be on Mars, and now that’s coming true. All of us imagine that there have to be a celebration in heaven.”
Rafael Navarro mountain sits at a significant geological transition in Gale Crater from a clay-rich area to at least one that is wealthy in sulfate minerals. Analyzing sulfate minerals might assist scientists higher perceive the most important shift within the Martian local weather from wetter to drier situations, in keeping with Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s challenge scientist primarily based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
“We consider this hill as a gateway,” Vasavada stated. “Rafael Navarro mountain might be continually in our sights for the following yr as Curiosity winds round it.”
The brand new hill identify is casual and meant for the usage of Curiosity’s world workforce members. The workforce unofficially has named hundreds of options in Gale Crater, from drill holes to rocks to dunes. “Workforce members agree on a reputation for a selected characteristic of curiosity, so that folks do not get confused if we observe it with a number of devices,” Vasavada stated.
Earlier than Rafael Navarro mountain, the Curiosity workforce has named 4 different options after deceased mission scientists: “Jake Matijevic” is the primary boulder Curiosity studied and is known as after a rover engineer who died in 2012. Curiosity’s first drill gap, “John Klein,” honors the mission’s deputy challenge supervisor who died in 2011. “Nathan Bridges dune” will get its identify from a co-investigator on Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument who died in 2017. And “Heinrich Wänke” is a rock goal that commemorates Wänke’s contributions to the event of a rover instrument, APXS, which analyzes the chemical make-up of Martian rocks.
Whereas a couple of different names of notable scientists not concerned with Curiosity, reminiscent of astronomer Vera Rubin, and even writers, reminiscent of Ray Bradbury, grace the options of Gale Crater (which was named after Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale), the rover workforce’s basic technique is to call areas, and options inside them, after areas of geological significance on Earth. For instance, the area the place Curiosity landed, the location of an historic lake, was named “Yellowknife” after a metropolis in northwest Canada the place scientists collect to kick off geologic expeditions. The options in Martian Yellowknife have been named after cities (“Bathurst Inlet”), mountains (“Sayunei”), or lakes (“Knob Lake”) in northern Canada.
In late March, Curiosity left “Nontron,” a area that takes the identify of a village in southwestern France the place the mineral nontronite was first described by scientists. Nontronite is a part of a gaggle of the most typical varieties of clays on Mars. Now, Curiosity will navigate round Rafael Navarro mountain, stopping in numerous areas of scientific curiosity to drill samples.
“We can’t have Rafael with us for this subsequent stretch, however we are going to convey his appreciable experience, creativity, and nice enthusiasm for astrobiology research to bear on our investigation of the traditional liveable environments in Gale Crater,” stated Paul Mahaffy, principal investigator of Curiosity’s SAM experiment who’s primarily based at NASA’s Goddard House Flight Middle in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Rafael was a superb buddy and devoted scientist, and it has been a privilege and honor for our Mars exploration workforce to work with him over time.”
NASA’s Curiosity workforce names Martian hill that serves as mission ‘gateway’ (2021, April 5)
retrieved 5 April 2021
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