Who has Mars fever?

Dr. Merritt does, and he knows a lot of middle school students who have developed the ‘fever’ too!!!

On Thursday evening, at 18:30 (Lugano time), NASA/JPL will be streaming a “Landing Day!” live stream for students. Although it is anticipated that Perseverance won’t touch down on the Mars surface until 2 hours and 25 minutes after the start of the live stream–touchdown is scheduled for 20:55 (Lugano time)–I am confident that there will be lots of interesting programming available (animations/simulations, explanations, interviews, stories, histories, etc.) between 18:30-20:55.

Stay tuned to the YouTube window below as the countdown to Mars continues…

Make some popcorn, sit back, relax, and watch one of the most exciting human scientific/engineering feats of the (still young) 21st century. You don’t want to miss this because you’ll have to wait at least 5 years until (hopefully) NASA/FJPL do it again!!!
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Now that we have some general knowledge about our destination, as well as a better idea about the relative distances between not only the Earth and Mars, but also between Mars and other heavenly bodies, it’s time to plan our mission to Mars. 

We need to plan for a long trip, determine which power source we’ll use, select science instruments that will help us accomplish our goals, make sure everything will fit on the rocket, and stay under budget! This week, we’ll be listening to Elizabeth Cordoba, a payload systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who has some expert advice about how NASA plans their missions to Mars.

That’s right, missions. Since the first successful flyby of Mars in 1965, four space agencies have successfully made it to Mars: NASA, the former Soviet Union space program, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Indian Space Research Organization, while others, including the space agencies in Japan and China, have tried.

For your upcoming mission, however, you’re going to need Elizabeth Cordoba…

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After travelling nearly 470 million km (300 million miles), NASA’s Perseverance rover is scheduled to complete its journey to Mars in a matter of weeks. The landing is currently scheduled for February 18, 2021. To reach the surface of the Red Planet, however, it has to survive the harrowing final phase(s) of the journey known as Entry, Descent, and Landing.

Entry is the phase in which Perseverance will enter the Martian atmosphere, which consists of a mixture of gases unlike the Earth’s. For example, by percentage, most of Earth’s atmosphere is composed of nitrogen gas (78%) whereas most of Mars’ atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide gas (95%).

Descent is the phase in which Perseverance will make its way from the outermost reaches of the Martian atmosphere down to the surface. For your reference, the vertical structure of the main layers of the Martian atmosphere extends approximately 230 km above the surface of Mars.

Landing is the phase in which Perseverance will (fingers crossed!) successfully decelerate and land safely upon the Martian surface so as to begin its surface exploration of the area known as “Jezero (crater)” in pursuit of ambitious astrobiological questions.

We will be learning more about all three of these final mission phases in the weeks ahead, but this week in Grade 7 science we will focus our attention on the size of our solar system and the distance(s) between planets paying close attention to the distance between Earth and Mars, of course. In the meantime, enjoy this Mission trailer produced by the good people at NASA Science.

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