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Ray Bradbury: Why NASA named Curiosity landing site after SciFi writer

Ray Bradbury is the new name for the Mars rover landing site in the Gale Crater. NASA chose Ray Bradbury to honor the iconic writer's legacy and dedication to Mars exploration, NASA officials said.

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"Previous sites are now named in tribute to astronomer Carl Sagan and the fallen astronauts of space shuttles Challenger and Columbia," Pearlman added. "'Bradbury Landing,' named after the late author Ray Bradbury, is a fitting tribute to a man who, through his writings, inspired us to imagine life on Mars — both alien and human. Those themes parallel Curiosity's goals of seeking out signs of habitable environments for past and present Martian life and advancing the day when humans can follow the rover to the Red Planet."

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NASA named the Mars Pathfinder lander that touched down on Mars in 1997 with the Sojourner rover the "Carl Sagan Memorial Station." The 2004 landing sites of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are dubbed the "Columbia Memorial Station" and "Challenger Memorial Station," respectively.

NASA's oldest Mars lander, Viking 1 — which launched 35 years ago this week — also received a new name during its mission. Viking 1 was renamed the "Thomas A. Mutch Memorial Station" in honor of Thomas Mutch, the leader of the Viking imaging team, after his death in 1980 — two years before the lander's mission ended.

The Viking 2 lander, which launched shortly after Viking 1, was later rechristined the "Gerald Soffen Memorial Station" after Gerald Soffen, the chief scientist of the Viking missions. 

The $2.5 billion Curiosity rover mission is expected to last at least two years on Mars.

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