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NASA Names Mars’ Perseverance Rover Landing Site After Iconic Black Science Fiction Author Octavia E. Butler

NASA Names Mars’ Perseverance Rover Landing Site After Iconic Black Science Fiction Author Octavia E. Butler

Afrofuturism lives!

NASA just named the Mars' Perseverance rover landing site after Octavia E. Butler, Essence reports.

The 2020 Mars Perseverance mission is an extension of NASA's "Moon to Mars" exploration initiative, which includes Artemis explorations to the Moon in preparation for human exploration of Mars. For more than three decades, there have been missions centered around Mars. And each landing site has been named for some iconic figure. In 1997, the Mars Pathfinder lander was renamed the "Carl Sagan Memorial Station." In 2004, the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity had their landing sites renamed the "Columbia Memorial Station" and "Challenger Memorial Station" in honor of the two fallen space crews of 2003 and 1986. The Perseverance rover has been trekking across Mars for the last couple of weeks. Now its landing site has been renamed after Butler, the iconic Black science fiction author. 

Butler is known for her pioneering work in Afrofuturism and centering Black experiences in the world of science fiction. She made history as the first Black woman to win the Hugo and Nebula awards in honor of science fiction. She was also the first science fiction writer to become a MacArthur Fellow. Many of her works, including "Parable of the Talents," "Dawn," and "Wild Seed," are being brought to the big screen by trailblazers like Ava DuVernay and Viola Davis. 

Katie Stack Morgan, the Perseverance deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, spoke about the importance of honoring Butler in this way.

"Butler's pioneering work explores themes of race, gender equality in humanity, centering on the experience of Black women at a time when such voices were largely absent from science fiction...Butler inspired and influenced the planetary science community and many beyond - including those typically underrepresented in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math fields."

The Octavia E. Butler landing site was photographed from the High-Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera that sits on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The Perseverance rover's particular focus is astrobiology, searching for any signs of microbial life by characterizing the planet's geology and past climate, starting with collecting and storing Martian rock and pieces of broken rock and dust, also known as regolith. The primary goal is to prepare for human exploration on Mars. 

Photo Courtesy of NASA/JPL-CALTECH/Essence

"Naming Perseverance's landing site in honor of Octavia EW. Butler honors notable science fiction writers, a theme also used by the Mars Science Laboratory team. We chose on this mission to continue this theme in appreciation of the role that science fiction writers have played in inspiring so many of us to become the engineers, scientists, and explorers who turn science fiction into reality for the next generation." Stack Morgan said.

The honor comes just in time to celebrate Women's History Month.

Thank you for all your work Ms. Butler. Your legacy lives on!

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Trujillo/seattlepi.com/Associated Press