Scientists are naming locations on Mars after iconic Maine towns, landmarks

Earlier this week, a remotely operated scientific research vehicle that has been moving across the surface of Mars for the past five years stopped in Ogunquit Beach, only it looked a little different — less water, fewer people and more red rocks.

In fact, anyone paying attention to the Curiosity rover’s route across the Red Planet over the last few months may have noticed myriad names taken from landmarks, geographic formations, places and towns in Maine — Kennebec, Mt. Battie, Frenchman Bay, Spring Point, Cape Elizabeth, Rockport, Isleboro, Isle au Haut and Frye Island, to name a few. Dr. R. Aileen Yingst, of Brunswick, and Katie Stack Morgan, of California, are to thank for that.

“To be immortalized on another planet, it’s awesome,” Yingst said Tuesday. “This is one of the tremendous joys of being a planetary scientist.”

Yingst, who works as a scientist on the Curiosity mission with the Planetary Science Institute remotely from her home in Brunswick, is the deputy principal investigator of the rover’s Mahli camera.

Morgan, who works as a research scientist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and lives in Pasadena, California, grew up spending summers in Maine with her family. In September 2013, she married her husband in Bar Harbor, and last year, they brought their infant child to visit Maine over the summer for the first time. To put it plainly, “it doesn’t feel like summer unless I’ve been to Maine,” Morgan said Tuesday.

Morgan has been with the Mars mission since 2012, when the rover landed. As of last week, the Curiosity rover has driven 10 miles, or 16 kilometers, on the surface of Mars since it landed four years ago, according to a status report from NASA.

The Fiddlehead Focus / St. John Valley Times staff are pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “Scientists are naming locations on Mars after iconic Maine towns, landmarks,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Alex Acquisto, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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