TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine recently attended the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club February meeting that was held at George Mason University. The guest speaker for the evening was Andrea Jones from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
The program centered upon the latest achievement of NASA involving its newest robotic rover sent to the planet MARS. The mission was established to run a number of experiments for possible future manned landings on the red planet. There have been a number of robotic instruments sent before, but none large enough to conduct the list of experiments needed to expand our current knowledge of the planet.
NASA therefore needed a new instrument package capable of performing all the tasks that were planned. The new robotic rover was created to house these experiments and it would be about the size of a Mini Cooper It’s weight was about 2,000 pounds and would require a new way of landing on the planet’s surface.
NASA named the new rover Opportunity and its instrument package was installed on the craft to give scientists the answers to many of the questions that was needed to be asked. Its landing was made with a combination of parachutes and rocket engines to give the craft a soft landing. The site chosen was Gale Crater, whose importance centered upon a number of factors including soil eroded by water from a three-mile high mountain at the center of the crater.
Opportunity’s tools included a camera and a number of instruments needed to perform various experiments. These include the biological potential of the soil, geology and geochemistry of the planet’s surface, discovery of the role of water in the many formations recently discovered, and surface radiation that would effect future manned landings.
Opportunity will join the rest of the rover family now on the planet’s surface and will continue to send back the much needed information to plan future missions. There is even plans to send more of Opportunity’s sister rovers to expand NASA’s quest for this knowledge. We also hope to conduct a one-on-one interview with Andrea in the near future to keep our student readership well informed with this and other missions planned by NASA.