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Students and Teachers Celebrate Perseverance and Ingenuity!
Ruth Kornblatt-Stier

On Thursday afternoon, Prep School science teachers Nicholas Verga, Brian Schott and Ilya Yashin hosted a special afterschool watch party of the NASA Perseverance rover’s landing on Mars. The three teachers offered expert and animated commentary on Perseverance’s special new features and on the new Mars helicopter Ingenuity, answering questions and fostering discussion among the watch party attendees. 

Mr. Verga, Mr. Schott and Mr. Yashin explained that over the course of the past seven months, Perseverance traveled over 292 million miles in order to land in an ancient lakebed called Jezero Crater. There it will search Mars for signs of life, extinct life or other organic compounds. The rover’s helicopter, Ingenuity, will be the first helicopter to fly on another planet, and the rover will also be the first to record sounds on Mars.

While CGPS students and teachers looked on with bated breath, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team successfully landed Perseverance on Mars’ surface, slowing the spacecraft down from over 12,000 miles per hour to only 1.7 miles per hour in less than seven minutes. Only a few moments later, they got to see the very first image taken of the Martian surface by Perseverance. Mr. Schott explained that in “the first photos taken from the hazard camera, they’re looking to ensure that it has landed correctly, and that no debris or other parts from the rover have fallen off.” Wrapping up the watch party, the three teachers discussed Perseverance’s controversial power source, Plutonium 239. Mr. Verga and Mr. Yashin explained that the Plutonium’s decay will emit heat that will then be converted into energy in order to power the rover and its instruments. What is special about this power source, however, is that it produces enough heat to protect Perseverance from the extreme cold of Martian nights and winters.

It was an exciting, historic and educational afternoon!

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