Scientists name parts of the Red Planet after New Mexico cities

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As New Mexicans, we have lots of ways of showing pride in our state. Now, New Mexicans have a new way to show their pride that’s out of this world, on Mars to be exact.

Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos are some of the most common destinations in New Mexico. Scientists working with the Mars Rover now think those cities could fit right into the Red Planet.

It’s a story that our pilot reporter, Bob Martin, who had a passion for science, had been working on in the weeks before he passed.

“New Mexico is so much like Mars. It has so much similarity in terms of our understanding. A lot of the things we see on Mars on a daily basis remind me very much of things here in New Mexico,” said Dr. Larry Crumpler.

Dr. Crumpler is a Research Curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. He’s also a part of the Mars Exploration Rover Science Team.

“We’re now driving along the rim of that crater,” he said.

For the last five years, he’s been exploring the Endeavour Crater on the Red Planet, which reminded him of something back here at home.

“Being the only New Mexican on the mission, it really was the only one who immediately conjured up the thought that wow, that’s about the same size as the Valles Calderas here in New Mexico,” said Dr. Crumpler.

He says the Valles Caldera’s features and size are so similar to the Endeavour Crater that the next step was simple — naming areas of the Endeavour Crater after New Mexico cities.

“We’ve gotten targets named Santa Fe. We’ve named a target Socorro, it’s an outcrop that’s kind of off to our south,” said Dr. Crumpler. “We have another interesting target that’s named Taos. Right now we’re looking at this target called Albuquerque which is a rock that’s sitting in front of us,” he continued.

While Mars is millions of miles away from earth, Dr. Crumpler says people living here can picture what it would be like to stand in the middle of Endeavour.

“New Mexicans, I like to say, are the only ones who understand the scale of the crater that we’re looking at on Mars,” he said.

There’s still a lot to explore in the Endeavour Crater, so more New Mexico towns are on the way. Bernalillo and Ojo Caliente are a couple of possibilities.

Each of the New Mexico cities on the list of possible names have something in common, they’re all located along the El Camino Real, the route that runs from Taos all the way down to Mexico City.

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