Town Booster Has Vision for Making Mark in Space

Times Staff Writer

Agoura Hills is in the running for an honor that is truly out of this world.

The hilly green city near the Los Angeles-Ventura county line is a contender for the privilege of having a small crater on Mars bear its name.

Agoura Hills City Councilwoman Darlene McBane sought the distinction after reading a newspaper article about an international committee of scientists working to name the geological features of planets, satellites, asteroids and comets.

The Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature, a committee of the Paris-based International Astronomical Union, is naming small Martian craters after villages around the world. (Large Martian craters are being named after dead scientists, writers and others who have contributed to the study of Mars.)

Intrigued, McBane fired off a letter to committee president Harold Masursky saying that Agoura Hills' 20,200 citizens would be "thrilled and honored" to have a namesake 48.7 million miles away.

Last month, Masursky informed McBane that Agoura Hills had made it into the committee's Mars "name bank," the first step toward celestial celebrity. Masursky, a scientist in Flagstaff, Ariz., with the U. S. Geological Survey, which produces the interplanetary maps, said Agoura Hills has a "fair chance" of being selected.

"I just thought it would be kind of fun," said McBane, a 22-year resident. "Other places have sister cities. Well, we might have a sister planet. They have to name it something. It might as well be Agoura Hills."

McBane's council colleagues jokingly suggested that McBane "be the first person to visit the planet. They told me I could go plant the flag," McBane said.

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