The Perseverance Rover could help make one of mankind’s most ambitious hopes become a reality. Someday, maybe soon, we might step foot on Mars. And when we do we can visit the historic site where Perseverance touched down. It will not just serve as a marker for the rover though. This historic place will also be a tribute to an author who helped us dream of a future made better by science. NASA has named the Perseverance landing location after the late science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler.
The exact location where Perseverance landed on Mars is now known as “ Octavia E. Butler Landing.” (Which we first heard about at The Guardian.) It’s a fitting honor for the author, who passed away in 2006. She was the first Black American woman to win both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award, the two most prestigious prizes in science fiction. Butler was also the first sci-fi writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship.
Some of Octavia Butler’s most famous works include Kindred, Bloodchild, Speech Sounds, Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and the Patternist series. As NASA notes in its announcement, “her writing explores themes of race, gender, equality, and humanity, and her works are as relevant today as they were when originally written and published.”
“Butler’s protagonists embody determination and inventiveness, making her a perfect fit for the Perseverance rover mission and its theme of overcoming challenges,” said Kathryn Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance, in a press release. “Butler inspired and influenced the planetary science community and many beyond, including those typically under-represented in STEM fields.”
Giving unofficial nicknames to various space-related objects, ships, locations, etc., are a common practice for the space agency. These names become reference points in scientific papers. So when someone mentions where Perseverance touched down on Mars, they will also pay tribute to Octavia E. Butler.
“I can think of no better person to mark this historic landing site than Octavia E. Butler, who not only grew up next door to JPL in Pasadena, but she also inspired millions with her visions of a science-based future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, in a statement. “Her guiding principle, ‘When using science, do so accurately,’ is what the science team at NASA is all about. Her work continues to inspire today’s scientists and engineers across the globe – all in the name of a bolder, more equitable future for all.”
Mars feels more within mankind’s reach than ever before. It’s only fitting Octavia Butler’s spirit will be waiting for us when we get there.
Featured Image: Democracy Now/NASA