Hi, I’m Michael, Program Coordinator at the Space Centre.

In the previous weeks we’ve been talking a lot about rockets, and hopefully those talks, activities, and resources have inspired you. It just so happens that soon we will have the most exciting rocket launch of the year; not because of the type of rocket, but what’s on it and where it’s going. This week’s theme is the destination of that rocket, and that’s Mars!

Sometime between July 30th  and August 15th, NASA will launch its latest rover, Perseverance, as part of the  Mars 2020 mission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Image credit: NASA JPL/Caltech

Perseverance will join the rover Curiosity, as well as InSight, a lander that is digging into the Martian soil. As you can see in the image below the rovers have grown in size, with Perseverance being slightly larger than Curiosity.













Image credit NASA JPL/Caltech

So, what are all these landers and rovers doing on the planet? What are they looking for? Well in the big picture, we are trying to get a deeper understanding of Mars, in part because it’s the closest planet to us, and in part because there is the potential that we could live there. Ultimately these missions to Mars are trying to uncover some secrets that could unlock the ultimate questions, was there ever life on Mars and could there still be life on Mars today?

Mars has fascinated humans for many reasons, the red planet draws us in. When looking at it through a telescope, you can see an actual world that seems like it could have supported life in the past. But was there? The planet’s colour holds some clues to the Martian environment of the past. Its soil contains iron, but iron isn’t naturally red so something must have caused it to turn red. You’ve probably experienced this—if you take something containing iron, like your bike, and leave it out in the rain, the metal surface will start to change to an orange-red colour—it rusts. That’s what happened to Mars. This suggests Mars had a watery past. So where did all the water go? The answer is a bit complicated, but we think in the past Mars had liquid water on its surface and a thicker atmosphere. As the planet evolved, its thinning atmosphere could not contain the water on its surface and water evaporated into space and seeped into the soil. We can see evidence of Mars’ watery past and present. The images below show what was probably a river delta and if you ever get a chance to look at Mars through a telescope, and I highly recommend that you do, you will see white on both poles—that's ice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

The Jezero Crater delta, site for the Mars 2020 mission. Can you see evidence of water carving out the Martian delta? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mars’ icy poles. Image credit: ESA

Ultimately going to Mars with landers, orbiters, and rovers gives us a more complete picture of a planet that we can compare to Earth. Mars and Earth formed in our solar system around the same time. Learning about potential life on Mars, helps us understand life on our planet. The prospect of sending humans to Mars may seem like a big undertaking, but the scientific payoff is coupled with the deep-rooted human yearning to understand our place in the universe; the more we look out into space, the more we understand about us.

Junior Astronomer Playlist (kids 8-12)
TimeActivity
5mins.

Get inspired by watching the Knowledge Network’s episode Mars Invasion and discover how Mars evolved from a place of fear to a place of wonder in the human imagination.

Ask yourself: What are you curious to know more about Mars?

10mins.

Delve deeper into the history of Mars and discover what clues to Mars’ past NASA’s Curiosity rover uncovered on a Martian mountain.

Ask yourself: Do you think there was once life on Mars?

5mins.

Investigate what it would take to live on Mars by learning how long a Mars year is, what the temperature on Mars is like, and about Mars’ very large mountains.

Ask yourself: Would you like to live on Mars? Why or why not?

20mins.

Drive a Mars rover to collect information about Martian rocks in this online game. Scroll down on the page to learn more about the newest rover to go to Mars, Perseverance.

Ask yourself: What can scientists learn by studying Martian rocks? 

1min.

 

Send your name to Mars on NASA’s next flight to the Red Planet!

Ask yourself: What do you think it would be like to travel to Mars?

Senior Astronomer Playlist (teens 13-15/adults)
TimeActivity
5mins.

Get inspired by watching the Knowledge Network’s episode Mars Invasion and discover how Mars evolved from a place of fear to a place of wonder in the human imagination.

Ask yourself: What are you curious to know more about Mars?

30mins.

Go on a virtual Mars expedition. Explore geological features and past NASA landing sites by toggling the Views bar on the right side of the webpage.

Ask yourself: Which one of Mars’ features is the most surprising to you?

120+mins.

Apply your new knowledge by helping researchers teach Mars rovers how to classify Martian terrain with the Zooinverse AI4Mars project.

Ask yourself: Why do you think collaboration is important in science?

30mins.

Delve deeper into Mars’ climate by discovering how scientists from NASA’s MAVEN mission map wind patterns and electric currents to better understand Mars’ ancient past and its ongoing evolution.

Ask yourself: Can you think of some other ways for scientists to find clues about Mars’ past?

10mins.

 

Think about what it would take to build a Marsbase.

Ask yourself: Do you think humans will ever become a multi-planetary species?

1min.

 

Send your name to Mars on NASA’s next flight to the Red Planet!

Ask yourself: What do you think it would be like to travel to Mars?