Mars, our terrestrial relative

Joining the show Monday is Aaron Yazzie, he designed the mechanical systems for NASA’s robotic space research missions that are now on Mars. Plus, Rhonda LeValdo was at Sunday's big game embedded in the protests against Kansas City's NFL team
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Aaron Yazzie, Diné, knows a thing or two about outer space. He’s a mechanical engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. His most extensive contributions are for missions to the planet Mars. 

Yazzie served as a surface operations downlink chair for the Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” Rover after landing in 2012. He delivered flight hardware to Mars on board the InSight Lander Mission in 2018. His next set of flight hardware is aboard the Mars 2020 “Perseverance” Rover. Yazzie was the lead engineer for the rover’s drill bits that it will use to search for ancient microbial life on Mars. He is from a small community bordering the Navajo Nation in Northern Arizona. He is passionate about STEM outreach to students of all ages, especially those from Indigenous communities.

Rhonda LeValdo, Acoma Pueblo, joins us from the road where she's been traveling across the country in regard to the protests against the Kansas City football team. She has spent days standing alongside members of Not In Our Honor, a collective against the use of Native American mascots, logos, and imagery. So when Sunday's big game brought Kansas City to Tampa, LeValdo drove nearly 20 hours to Raymond James Stadium.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • It’s often said that elections have consequences. In this case the Georgia Senate race last month could make all the difference for Rep. Deb Haaland’s confirmation process.
  • An Indian Health Service hospital in western New Mexico will continue to provide emergency and other key services through at least the end of February.
  • The Navajo Nation Council last week purchased a building in Washington, D.C., joining a handful of federally recognized tribes with offices in the nation’s capital.
  • The Biden administration continues to make key appointments to the government. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that JoAnn Chase, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Indian Nation, will be the director of the American Indian Environmental Office, Office of International and Tribal Affairs.
  • In 2020, the Cherokee Nation distributed more than five-thousand packages of seeds to tribal citizens.

You'll find more info on these stories at the top of today's newscast

Some quotes from today's show.

Aaron Yazzie:

"Mars is one of Earth's closest cousins, relatives. They're both rocky planets. We call them terrestrial planets. And what that basically means is that the internal makeup of both the plants are very similar in the way that they developed over billions of years. So that means that they have a core, a mantle across, and the way that landforms and the, the surface of Mars was shaped is basically the same forces that shaped the way that earth looks. So they have a Mars quakes, just like we have earthquakes."

"They once had large bodies of water, which would carve out little canyons and arroyos like I said, they had lakes too. So all of these things are what shapes, why, the things that the landforms that we have on earth, but it's the same story from ours. So when we study Mars and its history and its geology we're actually learning a lot about our own planet as well. 

"Mars time is interesting. So Mars, Mars has a day that is just barely longer than Earth. It's 40 minutes longer than Earth's day.

"And so the rover operates on a Mars day because it likes to work and operate when the sun is up. Just like we do so that way it can have a full view of the area around it with its cameras and it likes to sleep at night time. And so during the first I believe it's 90 days, the first critical days of the mission, there are a group of people that work on the operations of the rover, who will their work schedules to be the Mars time schedule, which means that every day there's their day shifts by 40 minutes by 40 minutes. And after a while, it can get kind of wacky, you can be coming into work two in the morning."

Rhonda LeValdo:

"So a group of us representing the Not In Our Honor coalition out of Kansas City and Kansas decided to travel down to the Super Bowl in Tampa to be representative at the protest that was organized by a Florida Indigenous group down there, and just to make sure our voices were heard. I guess they were a little bit more lax where we were coming from from Kansas and Kansas City. But I guess they had a mask mandate for that weekend."

"Which for the most part, most people were abiding too, but there was still some people that weren't wearing masks, but I think being with the Super Bowl, a lot of people go there to party. And so we were met with some opposition to what we were doing, but for the most part, a lot of the Tampa Bay fans, they agreed with what we were doing. They have a very small working group. They work with the their Native American advisory committee."

"And for the most part, they don't disclose really too much what they talk about. And I know a local public radio station tried to get in touch with them to do interviews for their pieces that were coming up prior to the Super Bowl and they could not get any comment from them. And for the most part, we don't know what they talk about or what they put forward. Kansas City has never come and asked us for help or any input at all. And so everyone's kind of left in the dark of what they discussed."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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