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  • By Shelbi R. Ankiewicz

NASA lands rover, Perseverance, on Mars

NASA’s rover, Perseverance, landed on Mars on Feb. 18th, after being launched into space in July of 2020.

According to the NASA website, the main mission of the rover is to gather rock samples to bring back to earth. With the samples, NASA will be eligible to study Mars and hopefully discover further information about the planet.

Ian Hewitt, a Coastal Carolina University Teaching Associate of Astronomy, volunteered to conduct a live stream of the rover landing. It took place on the Gupta College of Science YouTube channel.

“Where I used to live, I’d actually done the previous Mars landing of Curiosity; we had a very large event… people are very interested in Mars, certainly I am too, I get it,” said Hewitt.

There have been a series of rovers that have been launched in hopes of landing on Mars. The first rover was very small; like that of a remote-control car. The following two rovers were a little larger in size allowing them to collect more data. The last rover prior to Perseverance was Curiosity which launched in 2007. That rover was about the size of an SUV.

All previous rovers were sent out to discover if there is water on Mars. Now that it has been confirmed that Mars has water, Perseverance was sent out to discover life.

“We think that life should evolve, wherever the conditions permit it, mainly if there’s liquid water,” said Hewitt. “If that’s true, then life should’ve evolved on Mars, and finding it would tell us that that’s probably true. Which means life probably exists in a lot of places in our solar system, simple life, probably, but in our solar system and the universe. If it doesn’t, that means we got to reconsider that.”

Hewitt conducted a live stream to translate the steps and calls NASA was making whilst in the control room, so students could understand what is happening. They streamed the live feed that was happening inside the control room and conducted a voice over.

Junior Zachary Stevens is a CCU physics and engineering double major with minors in mathematics and astronomy. Stevens watched the rover landing on NASA’s homepage, as well as Hewitt’s livestream.

Stevens has previously interned with NASA at the JFK Center. He worked directly with some of the people who helped land the rover. This was motivation for him to watch the launch.

“I just wanted to be there and to see the hard work that nobody really knows behind the scenes,” said Stevens. “All people see is it lands on Mars, but they don’t know the two years it took to build the rover, the trials it took to get the rover on the right ship to launch… I know how it is to put the hard work in for the five minutes of fame people might have seen.”

What most caught Stevens attention during the launch was how fast the rover was coming in, and how fast it decelerated prior to landing. Perseverance was coming in at around 15 thousand meters per seconds, and within six minutes decelerated to zero.

Stevens also believes there is life on Mars.

“Life on Mars is probably very likely,” said Stevens. “Now, it also determines what you consider life, cause if we’re just talking microorganisms, which is life, then it’s very, very likely that that’s on Mars.”

Hewitt’s live stream of the event had at least 250 viewers.

“There was lots of competition as well,” said Hewitt. “There were other places to watch the rover landing, but we kind of wanted to do something specific for coastal and for coastal students that were interested.”

Hewitt will continue to host weekly updates and facts about Mars on the Gupta College of Science YouTube channel. The livestreams will take place on Thursday afternoons.

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