How NASA’s Naming System for Martian Landscape Evolved Over Time: Casper, Scooby-Doo, and Yogi Rock
NASA has been exploring Mars for decades, and as they have sent more and more missions to the Red Planet, they have had to come up with a naming system for the various features they have discovered. This system has evolved over time, and has included some interesting and unexpected names, such as Casper, Scooby-Doo, and Yogi Rock.
The first missions to Mars in the 1960s and 1970s did not have a formal naming system for the features they discovered. Instead, they simply used descriptive names, such as “Crater 1” or “Hill 2”. However, as more missions were sent to Mars, it became clear that a more organized system was needed.
In the 1990s, NASA began using a system based on the theme of “mythological and historical names of interest”. This system was used for the Mars Global Surveyor mission, which launched in 1996. Under this system, features on Mars were named after gods and goddesses from various mythologies, as well as historical figures and places of interest.
For example, one of the first features named under this system was Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system, which was named after the home of the gods in Greek mythology. Other features named under this system include Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system, which was named after the Mariner 9 spacecraft that discovered it, and Cydonia, the region of Mars where the famous “Face on Mars” was discovered.
However, this naming system was not without controversy. In 1999, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) criticized NASA for using non-scientific names for features on Mars, and called for a more formal system to be put in place.
In response, NASA developed a new naming system based on the theme of “geographic features of the Earth”. This system was used for the Mars Exploration Rover mission, which launched in 2003. Under this system, features on Mars were named after places on Earth that were similar in some way.
For example, the Opportunity rover discovered a rock formation that was named “Eagle Crater”, after the famous landing site of the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon. Other features named under this system include “Victoria Crater”, named after Victoria Falls in Africa, and “Endurance Crater”, named after the ship that carried explorer Ernest Shackleton on his Antarctic expedition.
However, this naming system also had its critics. Some argued that it was too restrictive, and did not allow for more creative or interesting names. In response, NASA developed a new system based on the theme of “fictional and mythological ships, as well as famous aircraft and spacecraft”.
This system was used for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which launched in 2011. Under this system, features on Mars were named after famous ships from science fiction and mythology, as well as real-life aircraft and spacecraft.
For example, the Curiosity rover discovered a rock formation that was named “Casper”, after the friendly ghost from the cartoon series. Other features named under this system include “Scooby-Doo”, named after the famous cartoon dog, and “Yogi Rock”, named after the famous cartoon bear.
This naming system has been well-received by the public, and has allowed NASA to use more creative and interesting names for the features they discover on Mars. It also reflects the growing interest in science fiction and popular culture, and shows how NASA is adapting to the changing times.
In conclusion, NASA’s naming system for Martian landscape has evolved over time, from descriptive names to mythological and historical names, to geographic features of the Earth, and finally to fictional and mythological ships, as well as famous aircraft and spacecraft. Each system has had its strengths and weaknesses, but they all reflect NASA’s commitment to exploring and understanding the Red Planet. And who knows what interesting and unexpected names we will see in the future as NASA continues to explore Mars and beyond.