In these times, there are many lessons to be learned, for which afterschool helps kids both prepare and develop skills. One of them is perseverance – being steadfast in doing something despite difficulty or delay, or using grit to keep on going and recover in the face of trouble, great and small. Can you think of a time that you and/or your students have needed this skill or if you know someone who did? It also means keeping your eyes on your goal and vision, on what is important to you. Can you recall how you coached your students to persevere?
A middle school student, Alex Mather from Virginia, wrote an essay describing why he thought the next NASA Mars rover should be named Perseverance. “We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh,” he wrote. He connected perseverance to other human qualities like curiosity, insight, and spirit, all of which have Mars rovers or missions named for them. He expressed his vision for the future with these closing words: “We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”
Amazing words from a young man. And very apropos to our times. You’ve no doubt heard amazing thoughts from your youth, too, as they work through their lives.
NASA was impressed with the vision and words that Alex submitted to the Name the Rover contest last fall, and announced him as the winner in March 2020.
So, what about that Perseverance rover? As early as July 30, NASA launches its next robotic mission to Mars – Mars 2020, with the Perseverance Rover. The rover will spend a Martian year (two Earth years) working to better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of ancient life. It will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that can be returned to Earth with a future mission. It will take about 6 months for Mars 2020 to travel from Earth to Mars, with a landing scheduled for February 18, 2021 at the site of an ancient river delta in a lake than once filled Jezero Crater. The crater was a possible oasis in the distant past. None of the previous Mars missions have visited this area.
The mission will also test new technology to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars. In a nod to other human characteristics, a helicopter named Ingenuity will be tested on Mars, and will be the first aircraft to fly in a controlled way on another planet. One of the rover’s seven instruments supports a proof-of-concept experiment — called Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (or MOXIE). This instrument will produce oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide atmosphere, demonstrating a way that future explorers might produce oxygen for rocket propellant as well as for breathing.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance launch can happen any day between July 30 at 4:50 am Pacific Time and August 15, 2020.
There are many ways to be a part of the excitement for the launch, and beyond. Students can make and launch their own paper rocket from a soda straw – a fun way to learn about how rockets work.
If your kids have access to the internet or cell network, there is more cool stuff to do, even from a phone! You can join NASA for the launch; follow updates using the hashtag #CountdowntoMars on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; snap yourself and your family inside the Mars Perseverance Photo Booth; sign up to send your name on a future NASA Mars mission; and more!
As you follow the Perseverance Rover on its way to a Martian landing on February 18, 2021, take your youth along for a journey to Mars with educational resources and fun things to do (some available en Español) from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Education Office. Catch some inspiration with these videos about the people who make the mission happen, and all the different jobs it takes!
These resources can make a good series of activities to implement as you and your youth journey together in the coming months, whether you are together safely or interacting from a distance – while you navigate these uncertain times and practice your own form of perseverance.
Stay safe, and follow the journey!
For breakfast, I had summer blackberries over yogurt, with black English breakfast tea!