A 120-meter-high hill on Mars was named in honor of Mexican astrobiologist Rafael Navarro, after his death from COVID-19.
Rafael Navarro-González dedicated his professional and academic trajectory to study the conditions necessary for the formation of life beyond Earth. It was formed in Mexico as astrophysicist, biologist and chemist. During his hard research work, he established the Laboratory of Plasmas Chemistry and Planetary Studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. This legacy appears today in one of the mountains explored on NASA’s Curiosity mission.
Rafael Navarro: a Mexican legacy on the Martian surface
Rafael Navarro-González, an astrobiologist on the Curiosity Mars rover team, passed away on January 28, 2021. Among his many accomplishments, he helped lead the team that identified ancient organic compounds on Mars. Photo: Luz Fabiola Aceves Díaz
Rafael Navarro-González did not distinguish himself for being a scientist who aligned himself with the institutions. On the contrary, he did not hesitate to fix errors that he had identified in NASA space missions on two occasions: Viking and Curiosity. Thanks to your contributions, re-evaluated the results of both studies.
Recently, the NASA team of experts who have driven the Curiosity rover named a Martian mountain in honor of the Mexican scientist, for his recent death in January, because of COVID-19. In its exploration trajectory on the Red Planet, the robot found a choline that had not been tested before.
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Navarro Hill: a fertile field for new research
This panorama of Rafael Navarro Mountain, made up of multiple images captured by the Mastcam, was taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover on February 13, 2021, the 3030th Mars, or Sun, day of the mission. The white balance has been adjusted to resemble lighting similar to that of the Earth and the sky has been edited for aesthetic reasons. Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS.
Northwest of Gale Crater, with about 120 meters high, Navarro Mountain was located during the rover’s journey. The Mexican scientist helped design a mobile laboratory aboard Curiosity to analyze the chemical composition of Martian soil and air.
In turn, the children of Navarro-González highlighted their pride in the posthumous achievement of the researcher, according to a NASA statement:
“We are very honored that a prominent hill is named after our father. It’s a dream, yours and ours, come true […] My father was an accomplished scientist, but above all a great human being who knew how to balance work and family. Our mother, Faby, always told him that his name would one day be on Mars, and now it is a reality. We believe that heaven is celebrating ”.
Today we know that the Rafael Navarro mountain is located in a region rich in clay and sulfate minerals. This information will open the horizon of analysis on the geological history of the planet, as well as the changes that the climate has undergone on Mars over billions of years.
It could be that this hill is a portal to new research possibilities, so it will occupy much of the attention of NASA scientists in the years to come. Meanwhile, Curiosity will continue to prowl its surroundings, gathering information with the traveling laboratory designed by Rafael Navarro-González.
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