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NASAs new Mars rover honors Navajo language

NASA Rock Rover.jpg
Posted at 10:32 AM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 12:32:57-05

With its latest Mars rover, the NASA Perseverance team has been naming features of the Red Planet with words from the Navajo language.

The team worked with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President to come up with nicknames for landmarks the rover is exploring on the planet.

The first focus of the rover is a rock named “Máaz,” the Navajo word for “Mars.”

Navajo Nation officials made a list of words and submitted them to NASA. The Perseverance team started with a list of 50 Navajo language words and will receive more as the rover continues its journey.

“The partnership that the Nez-Lizer Administration has built with NASA will help to revitalize our Navajo language,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “We hope that having our language used in the Perseverance mission will inspire more of our young Navajo people to understand the importance and the significance of learning our language. Our words were used to help win World War II, and now we are helping to navigate and learn more about the planet Mars.”

Some of the words on the list include “tséwózí bee hazhmeezh,” or “rolling rows of pebbles, like waves.” Other suggestions include “strength” (“bidziil”) and “respect” (“hoł nilį́”).

Because the accent marks to convey intonation of the Navajo language can't be read by the computer the rover uses, Perseverance had to be "taught" the language.