NASA’s spectacularly landed its Perseverance rover on Mars on February 18th, and it’s using the opportunity to honor the legacy of science fiction author Octavia Butler by christening its landing site the “Octavia E. Butler Landing.”
The rover was launched on July 30th, 2020, and its intended goal is to seek out signs of life by studying Martian soil and rock samples. Onboard is a tiny helicopter, which is designed as a technology demonstration to see if similar vehicles might be of use in future probes throughout the solar system.
Perseverance landed in Mars’s Jezero Crater, which was at one point flooded with water and is home to an ancient river delta, which should provide the rover with plenty of material to study. It’s just north of Mars’s equator, and it’s nearly 2,300 miles away from another recent Mars rover, Curiosity.
The spot where @NASAPersevere began its journey on Mars now bears the name “Octavia E. Butler Landing." Groundbreaking author @OctaviaEButler is a perfect fit for this mission, as her main characters embody overcoming challenges.
📸: Ching-Ming Cheung pic.twitter.com/itgooPxpCN
— NASA JPL (@NASAJPL) March 5, 2021
According to NASA, the agency chose the name the rover’s landing site for Butler because her “main characters embody overcoming challenges. Butler featured Mars in a number of her novels over the years. In Parable of the Sower, she makes a mention of a Martian astronaut who perished on a mission, and how some people on Earth were unhappy about the money being spent on that particular exploration program.
She also mentions Mars in her Lilith’s Brood trilogy, in which a young woman is resurrected by aliens, only to discover that humanity has been largely destroyed by a nuclear war. The woman is later provided with some space to live on Mars (mentioned in Adulthood Rites and Imago.)
With the designation, Butler joins a small group of authors who have been similarly honored with with named features on the red planet, such as craters named for Edgar Rice Burroughs, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert A. Heinlein, Stanley Weinbaum, and H.G. Wells.