On top of all of the requirements for building Perseverance, the Mars 2020 mission team has had to find various ways to prepare their rover for its coming trip. One of those preparations includes finding room to carry its companion, Ingenuity, NASA’s Mars Helicopter. That’s right – you can share with your kids that the mission team has been exploring how one might fly on a different planet. Ultimately, this small aircraft is an experiment in the hopes of better understanding flight on Mars for future missions.
“The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is an experimental flight test of new technology. Future Mars missions could enlist second-generation helicopters to add an aerial dimension to their explorations. They could act as scouts for human crews, carry small payloads or investigate cliffs, caves, deep craters, and other unvisited or difficult-to-reach destinations. But before any of that happens, a test vehicle has to prove it's possible.”
If you and your family track the progress of NASA’s Perseverance and Ingenuity, you will discover there are amazing pieces of technology being used on top of the rover and helicopter themselves. The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) is being brought to the Red Planet to conduct an experiment, with the hopes of replicating it on a much larger scale in the future. MOXIE is a device that consumes carbon dioxide and expels oxygen in its place. On a planet where its atmosphere contains 96% of carbon dioxide gas, this oxygen exchange could benefit future exploration in a significant way. Oxygen would benefit explorers, not only with breathable air, but with travel.
Michael Hecht, Principal Investigator of the MOXIE team, states, “When we send humans to Mars, we will want them to return safely, and to do that they need a rocket to lift off the planet. Liquid oxygen propellant is something we could make there and not have to bring with us. One idea would be to bring an empty oxygen tank and fill it up on Mars.” In addition to aiding space flights back to Earth, this oxygen-based fuel will be used for others to explore Mars itself, furthering our understanding of a planet that we hope to learn so much from.
The Perseverance mission has several key objectives, which includes studying the surface to determine what Mars once was like. Understanding the previous environments will indicate whether or not there were acceptable habitats to support life. Plus, another goal of this mission is to search for ancient life. There are instruments designed to examine Mars’ geology, and each of those instruments has its own team - again highlighting the necessity for many people to work together on a single mission. There are numerous components to a single mission, so it’s a valid reason (and completely understandable) for kids to want to be a part of something far reaching.
As a parent, a mission to Mars is a wonderful dream for kids to pursue on so many different levels. Yes, there are hopes to have eventual human footsteps on Mars, but there are countless paths to helping these colossal space missions. MOXIE is one component of the Mars 2020 mission, and it lists 30 team members on this one project, including students. As a whole, NASA seems to encourage students to be a part of their programs. So, it’s not surprising they had the “Name NASA’s Next Mars Rover” campaign, where students submitted essays with their choices. Not only was Perseverance’s name created by a student, but they also chose another selection, Ingenuity, for the helicopter.
“Something I submitted was chosen by people who one day I plan to work with, and that’s incredible.” – Alexander Mather, 13-year-old student responsible for naming Perseverance
With the #StoriesMatter initiative by Fanbase Press, space exploration is at the core of amazing fictional tales. As a young child or teenager, those stories do not have to be limited to fiction. Following these amazing missions and accomplishments allows them to imagine what their own story or path in life might look like in the future. There’s a sense of inspiration when we imagine what we want to do when we grow up. That’s a very powerful tool as we get older, as we are constantly trying to find our place in this world. As with Mars 2020, perhaps that place is helping to get a rover, helicopter, or accompanying technology to a distant planet. Perhaps one day, a child’s imagination wonders about becoming an astronaut and doing what many of us have seen on TV and film.
As an avid fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I watched what I believed to be the possibility of an amazing future. Now, kids and teens can follow Mars 2020 and other space missions alike, and get that story-like sense that they, too, can “explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”
If you and your kids want to watch the launch of Perseverance into space, keep tabs on NASA Live. The launch is scheduled for July 22 at 6:35 a.m./PST (9:35 a.m./EST). If there are any delays due to weather conditions, the window for launching continues through August 11.
If you plan on watching the launch, let us know in the comments below. If you like this space exploration coverage, make sure to like and share this article with all your friends over on Facebook and Twitter.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.