MARS, OUTER SPACE — NASA has teamed up with the Navajo Nation to bring the Navajo language to the red planet.
In a partnership with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, NASA has begun to name "features of scientific interest with words in the Navajo language."
"The first scientific focus of NASA’s Perseverance rover is a rock named 'Máaz' – the Navajo word for 'Mars,'" NASA said in a press release.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said a team from the Navajo Nation came up with a list of 500 words to present to NASA, which was narrowed down to 50 and includes words like bidziil (strength), hoł nilį́ (respect), and Ha’ahóni, which is Navajo for Perseverance.
Welcome to “Máaz.”— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) March 11, 2021
My team is working with the Navajo Nation and @NNPrezNez, who are sharing their language to help us informally name features I’m exploring on Mars, like:
tsé łichíí (red rock)
séítah (amongst the sand)
Learn more: https://t.co/lqy0K1zz6N pic.twitter.com/B50gfRNR3D
"Our Navajo language was used to win World War II. Now our language is being utilized to identify rocks and sediments and areas. They're on Mars," President Nez said. "So it's very exciting for the Navajo people to be a part of this project."
President Nez says he hopes the collaboration between NASA and the Navajo Nation will help younger members of the community become inspired to re-learn the Navajo language.
"When I say re-learn, it is said in our culture that you are born with the language within us. We just have to bring it out," Nez said. "With our Navajo people here on the Navajo Nation, our language is really slowly diminishing. With the COVID-19 here, a lot of our elders who are very fluent in the language have passed on. So what we want to do is [use] this to honor our elderly who have passed on."
NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover launched to Mars on July 30, 2020, and landed on February 18, 2021.