LPL in the News

Breaking the Barriers of Space, the Boundaries of Language

Breaking the Barriers of Space, the Boundaries of Language

By Shelley Littin, University Communications - March 21, 2014

People around the globe can now read information that accompanies images of Mars captured by the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE, which is aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, captures images of the red planet in never-before-seen detail and resolution.

Earth's people can read these descriptions in 16 languages, with the newest addition being Hebrew, thanks to the UA's Beautiful Mars Project.

"There are people across the world that want to learn about Mars but have little-to-no English skills," said Ari Espinoza, HiRISE Project Coordinator. "The project is a unique way to speak to them in their language and let them in on what we're seeing and learning about Mars. For educators, it's another tool to spark interest with their students when they see their language describing the surface of another planet."

"For Hebrew, it's the same approach as with any of the languages we have: We want to start talking with other people, improve on what we've done and make it better," Espinoza continued. "Each language poses its own challenge to express concepts clearly, but that's also a part of what the project is about: How do I tell you something about Mars that's understandable and makes you want to learn more?"

Other languages in the Beautiful Mars Project include German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, Polish, Arabic, Chinese and Turkish.

Image captions can be read in these languages on HiRISE's Tumblr and Twitter sites. So far, these sites are the only NASA resources available to the public in many of these languages, including Hebrew.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - a project of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory launched in 2005 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. - is on a mission to seek evidence that water once existed on the surface of Mars over a long period of time.

Having exceeded the bounds of its primary mission, the orbiter remains above Mars while instruments aboard it, including HiRISE, continue to gather valuable scientific data and beautiful images of the Martian surface.

The images produced by HiRISE allow for both intense scientific analysis as well as detailed exploration of the Martian surface. Up to 20,000-by-60,000 pixels in size, the images are big enough to be murals on your living room wall.

The Beautiful Mars Project engages the public beyond the science community. Anyone fluent or semi-fluent in a language other than English can volunteer to help translate HiRISE image captions into another language.

The translated captions will be published along with the images on the HiRISE Tumblr and Twitter feeds.