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NASA rover Perseverance touches down on Mars

Donna Coutts, February 19, 2021 9:08AM Kids News

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An artist’s illustration of Perseverance rover exploring inside 45km-wide Jezero Crater, Mars. Picture: AFP/NASA/JPL-Caltech media_cameraAn artist’s illustration of Perseverance rover exploring inside 45km-wide Jezero Crater, Mars. Picture: AFP/NASA/JPL-Caltech

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NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully landed on Mars.

The rover streaked through the Martian atmosphere and this morning AEDT* touched down safely on the floor of a vast crater, its first stop on a search for traces of ancient microbial* life on the red planet.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles in the US burst into applause and cheers as radio signals confirmed that the six-wheeled rover had survived its dangerous descent and arrived within its target zone inside Jezero Crater.

The robotic vehicle sailed through space for almost seven months, covering 472 million kilometres before entering the Martian atmosphere at 19,000 km/h to begin its approach to touchdown on the planet’s surface.

Moments after touchdown, Perseverance beamed back its first black and white images from the Martian surface.

Because it takes radio waves 11 minutes to travel from Mars to Earth, the rover had already reached the Martian surface by the time its arrival was confirmed by the signals relayed to Earth from one of several satellites orbiting Mars.

media_cameraAn artist’s illustration of the Perseverance rover landing safely on Mars after its seven-month journey from Earth. Picture: AFP/NASA/JPL-Caltech

It is the fifth time NASA has landed a rover on Mars.

Scientists believe an ancient river once flowed into a lake at the Jezero Crater and deposited sediments*, hopefully preserving signs of any life present billions of years ago.

Only about half of previous Mars landing attempts have succeeded and this location is the most difficult.

The team guiding the rover used what was learnt during previous attempts, plus more advanced technology, including equipping the rover to avoid hazards autonomously*.

media_cameraJennifer Trosper, Perseverance deputy project manager, with a full-scale model of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on February 16. Picture: AFP

The mission aims for Perseverance to seal the samples it collects into small tubes and leave them on Mars’ surface until future missions are launched to return them to Earth for study. Each sample will weigh about 15g, a little under the weight of four teaspoons of sugar.

VIDEO: Perseverance’s Sample Tubes Ready for Mars

Perseverance’s Sample Tubes Ready for Mars

HOW FAR?
Perseverance launched on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, US, on July 20, 2020. The Atlas V is the same type of rocket that launched InSight and Curiosity to Mars.

By February 14, Perseverance:

  • had travelled more than 464 million kilometres of its 472-million-kilometre journey to Mars
  • was about 200 million kilometres from Earth
  • and about 827,000km from Mars

ON-BOARD PERSEVERANCE
Perseverance weighs 1025kg and is about the size of a car.

It looks like the Mars rover Curiosity, partly because Perseverance is made of about 90 per cent Curiosity spare parts.

A little helicopter called Ingenuity is attached to the underside of Perseverance. It is hoped Ingenuity can do some test flights to help engineers plan for future travel around Mars.

Perseverance is also carrying an instrument nicknamed MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) to make oxygen from the air. If this works, the idea could be used for future human settlements.

Source: NASA

VIDEO: NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter — The First Aircraft on Mars

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter: The First Aircraft on Mars

GLOSSARY

  • AEDT: Australia Eastern Daylight Savings Time
  • microbial: organisms that are so small they can only be seen with a microscope
  • sediments: small grains of sand or rock that are blown, washed or settle into place
  • autonomously: by itself, independently

EXTRA READING

Mars Perseverance rover joins race to Mars

Chinese and UAE spacecrafts enter Mars orbit

Mars mission headlines big week in space news

Mars InSight lander hits itself with shovel

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the lander or rover called?
  2. What and where is Jezero?
  3. Why is the landing site a difficult place to land?
  4. What is the main job of this mission?
  5. Name two important pieces of equipment on board.

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. List the Challenges and Benefits
List all of the challenges facing the scientists and engineers in their mission to learn more about life on Mars. Then, make a list of all of the benefits that their work will give us.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Think about the names that NASA has given the rover and its parts – rovers called Perseverance and Curiosity and then parts of Perseverance called Ingenuity and MOXIE. Did you know that moxie is an American term that means courage?

If you were part of the team that decides the name for the next Mars rover, what names would you use? For each name, write a paragraph or create a design that helps people understand why you chose that name. Your new rover has the same features as Perseverance, so don’t forget to name a helicopter and a new and improved oxygen device.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Visual Communications Design

VCOP ACTIVITY
Adjectives
An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with look at the words before the nouns.

Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article

Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension: Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What about space do you find most fascinating?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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