Venus on Mars, Since 1997
This image – and the female symbol inside the red triangle – prove it: Venus first landed on Mars on July 4, 1997, the date Pathfinder touched down and the first Mars rover, toaster-sized Sojourner Truth, rolled out onto the Martian soil:
The history of how this came to pass reveals a lot about the overwhelmingly male dominated JPL workplace of the 1990s, and one woman who not only broke the glass ceiling there, but also put her foot down when it came to giving the rover a name – and a gender, Donna Shirley, Mars program manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
I said to the guys, “Well, all the spacecraft are named either men or after ships or something like that. I think it is time to name a spacecraft after a woman.” Of course, most of the team was men and so they all grumbled about that. But I said, “It is my rover. It is going to be named after a woman.”
Shirley spearheaded a national contest for young people to submit ideas for names based on female heroines. 12-year-old Valerie Ambroise of Bridgeport, CT, won the contest by writing:
It’s only logical that the Pathfinder be named Sojourner Truth, because she is on a journey to find truths about Mars.
So there. On Mars. Venus. Since 1997. It’s the truth.