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Two rocks on Mars named in Cypriot dialect

Two rocks on Mars have been given names by NASA in the Cypriot dialect, honouring the work of a Cypriot scientist who works on the NASA InSight mission.

Dr Constantinos Charalambous is a Cypriot planetary scientist born in Limassol and a research member of the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation (CSEO).

Since InSight’s landing on Mars on November 26, he has been supporting surface operations for the mission at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

During his work he was given the opportunity by NASA to name two rocks, which he called “moutti” (nose) and “zavos” (askew, pointing at an angle), words of the Cypriot dialect.

“This is the first time we have names in the Cypriot dialect on the red planet,” Charalambous, told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).

As a scientist member for InSight, his focus now during the surface operations is on the analysis, performance and scientific interpretation of data returned daily from Mars. After the first data arrival from on the deck of the lander on Mars, he was responsible for the processing and sonification of the seismometer’s signal into the audible range for the human ear.

His overall work will bring out an in-depth study of the crust, mantle, and core of Mars, and more generally, the evolutionary history of the planet, in a mission that is expected to last for up to two years.

“I’m hoping that through this fascinating journey we’ll unfold all the mysteries in play that comprise the signals we receive from 225 million kilometers away – either from truly seismic or aseismic contributions, such as the wind, atmospheric or temperature variations,” he said.

Since 2013, Charalambous has been working as a Research Associate at Imperial College London in addition to being part of the SEIS science team and Geology group for NASA’s InSight mission. As a member of the Council of Terrains team, he has also helped select the site for safe landing in the equatorial region of Mars, Elysium Planitia, in a process that lasted four years.

He told CNA that his dream is to participate in research for the first manned mission to Mars.

“To be capable of having humans on more than just one planet would be heralded as one of the greatest achievements in the history of humanity,” he said.

He said that his goal is to discover more about the universe and particularly provide a part to the answer for astrobiology’s biggest question: ‘are we alone in the universe?’.

“We currently possess the necessary technological advancements to perform space exploration and answer scientifically whether life exists elsewhere, beyond Earth. This question applies not only on Mars, but also more importantly on the moons Europa, Titan and Enceladus, for which we already have planned future missions. This brings one of the most exciting aspects of my work, to be able play a part in answering what truly lies beyond in the great unknown,” he added.

Charalambous said that in the next few years more robotic landers will land on Mars to prepare the ground for the first human settlement in the future.

He said that “now that Cyprus has strongly emerged into the game of space exploration with CSEO, for example with the Mars Upper Atmosphere Network (MUAN), there will be many more opportunities for the young Cypriots to pursue a career in the space industry”.

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