NASA’s Curiosity Rover Team Names Martian Hill That Serves as Mission “Gateway”

Rafael Navarro Mountain

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover utilized its Mastcam to take a picture of this mountain, nicknamed “Rafael Navarro Mountain” after the astrobiologist Rafael Navarro-González, who dealt with the objective till he died January 26, 2021. Credit: NASA

The name honors just recently deceased objective researcher Rafael Navarro-González, who assisted lead the group that recognized ancient natural substances on Mars.

The group of researchers and engineers behind NASA’s Curiosity rover called a hill along the rover’s course on Mars in honor of a just recently deceased objective researcher. A craggy bulge that extends 450 feet (120 meters) high, “Rafael Navarro Mountain” lies on Mount Sharp in northwest Gale Crater.

The motivation for the name is acclaimed researcher Rafael Navarro-González; he passed away on January 28, 2021, from issues associated with COVID-19. A leading astrobiologist in Mexico, Navarro-González was a co-investigator on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM), a portable chemistry laboratory aboard Curiosity that has actually been ferreting out the chemical makeup of Martian soil, rocks, and air. As such, he assisted lead the group that recognized ancient natural substances on Mars; his numerous achievements likewise consisted of recognizing the function of volcanic lightning in the origin of life on Earth. Navarro-González was a scientist at Nuclear Sciences Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City.

Rafael Navarro-González

Rafael Navarro-González, an astrobiologist on the Curiosity Mars rover group, died Jan. 28, 2021. Among his numerous achievements, he assisted lead the group that recognized ancient natural substances on Mars.
Credit: Luz Fabiola Aceves Diaz

“We are truly honored to have a prominent hill named after our dad; it’s his and our dream come true to see this happen,” composed Navarro-González’s kids, Rafael and Karina Navarro Aceves, in a declaration to NASA. “Ever since our parents met, their dreams merged together and they became a beautiful team, working very hard for 36 years. Our dad was an accomplished scientist, but above all, a great human being who managed to balance work and family. Our mom, Faby, would always tell him that his name one day would be on Mars, and now that is coming true. We all believe that there must be a party in heaven.”

Rafael Navarro Mountain sits at a significant geological shift in Gale Crater from a clay-rich area to one that’s abundant in sulfate minerals. Analyzing sulfate minerals might assist researchers much better comprehend the significant shift in the Martian environment from wetter to drier conditions, according to Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s job researcher based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

“We think of this hill as a gateway,” Vasavada stated. “Rafael Navarro Mountain will be constantly in our sights for the next year as Curiosity winds around it.”

The brand-new hill name is casual and suggested for using Curiosity’s worldwide employee. The group unofficially has actually called countless functions in Gale Crater, from drill holes to rocks to dunes. “Team members agree on a name for a particular feature of interest, so that people don’t get confused if we observe it with multiple instruments,” Vasavada stated.

Before Rafael Navarro Mountain, the Curiosity group has actually called 4 other functions after departed objective researchers: “Jake Matijevic” is the very first stone Curiosity studied and is called after a rover engineer who passed away in 2012. Curiosity’s very first drill hole, “John Klein,” honors the objective’s deputy job supervisor who passed away in 2011. “Nathan Bridges Dune” gets its name from a co-investigator on Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument who passed away in 2017. And “Heinrich Wänke” is a rock target that celebrates Wänke’s contributions to the advancement of a rover instrument, APXS, which evaluates the chemical makeup of Martian rocks.

While a couple of other names of significant researchers not included with Curiosity, such as astronomer Vera Rubin, and even authors, such as Ray Bradbury, grace the functions of Gale Crater (which was called after Australian astronomer Walter F. Gale), the rover group’s basic method is to call areas, and functions within them, after locations of geological significance on Earth. For example, the area where Curiosity landed, the website of an ancient lake, was called “Yellowknife” after a city in northwest Canada where researchers collect to begin geologic explorations. The includes in Martian Yellowknife were called after towns (“Bathurst Inlet”), mountains (“Sayunei”), or lakes (“Knob Lake”) in northern Canada.

Mount Sharp Curiosity Route

This animation reveals a proposed path up Mount Sharp that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover might follow in the future. “Rafael Navarro Mountain” is marked along the method.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In late March, Curiosity left “Nontron,” an area that takes the name of a town in southwestern France where the mineral nontronite was very first explained by researchers. Nontronite becomes part of a group of the most typical kinds of clays on Mars. Now, Curiosity will browse around Rafael Navarro Mountain, dropping in various areas of clinical interest to drill samples.

“We won’t have Rafael with us for this next stretch, but we will bring his considerable expertise, creativity, and great enthusiasm for astrobiology studies to bear on our investigation of the ancient habitable environments in Gale Crater,” stated Paul Mahaffy, primary private investigator of Curiosity’s SAM experiment, who’s based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Rafael was a good friend and dedicated scientist, and it has been a privilege and honor for our Mars exploration team to work with him over the years.”

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