Human curiosity is a powerful motivator. It pushes us to look and go farther than we previously thought possible. After a few millennia of looking at the sky and wondering what it’s like up there so far away, we’re now able to build machines that give us a front row seat. The Mars rover Curiosity landed on the Martian surface on August 5, 2012. It was no simple task getting an automated science lab and off-road vehicle on a planet 55 million km away from Earth.
So how did they do it?
Which of the following do you think are the biggest challenges they had to overcome?
- taking off and dealing with the Earth’s weather
- flying to Mars without crashing into an astroid
- timing the launch to hit Mars in it’s orbit
- entering the Martian atmosphere
And what do you think 7 minutes of terror is? What is the single most difficult part of the Mars rover mission?
Watch the video and find out:
What looks crazy and what is paradoxical about the fact that it looks crazy?
How long does it take for the signal to get from the spacecraft to Earth?
How long does it take to get from the top of Mar’s atmosphere to the planet’s surface?
What does EDL stand for?
How hot does the heat shield get? When does it come off and why?
Why is Mars atmosphere difficult for spacecraft?
How much does the parachute weigh and how much force must it withstand?
Why does the parachute have to be cut off?
How and why does the rover “divert” from the parachute?
What is the “Skycrane Maneuver” and why was it necessary?
We went through all of this trouble and expense to satisfy our curiosity. We simply want to know if there is evidence for life on Mars, currently or in the past. Why is it important for humans to satisfy their curiosity? Could the money and technology be used for something for useful here on Earth?
Can you name any way that human society benefits from such work and discovery? Can you think of ways that you personally benefit?
What if we do find evidence for life or even samples of life itself, what is the significance of that?