South Pointe Middle School

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Mars Rover Comes to the Pointe

Wong told South Pointe 8th graders about the mission that involved over 2,000 NASA scientists and was a decade in the making during 50-minute assemblies throughout the day.

He brought a Mars rover model, photos, and a short video of the actual landing.

The Curiosity is about three-months into the two–year mission and was programed to land on its own.

“As the rover was descending it was taking radar measurements of the surface to find a nice flat spot to land and steered itself toward it,” Wong said.

“We couldn’t remote control the landing because it takes about eight minutes to get a signal to the rover,” he said.

“By the time we learned that it had landed, the Curiosity had been on the surface for eight minutes.”

Another slide showed a photo of the rover exploring at Mt. Sharp on Mars.

“The reason we wanted to go to Mt. Sharp is because it has lots of layered rock deposits, similar to our Grand Canyon, Wong described.

“We want to see what Mars’ past history is like,” he said.

Three students (shown:Andrew Cordoba, Kayleen Allen abnd Ajit Sinh) were selected to come onto the stage with a full-size rover wheel to demonstrate how long Curiosity is.

“NASA tried to make the rover as light as possible,” he described.

“And it’s about as long as a Mini Cooper, he said.

“How tall is it?” one student asked.

“About as tall as your Principal,” Wong answered.

Students got to touch a real parachute that helped another rover successfully land in the blue Atlantic.

Mr. Wong showed the students a free Mars Rover game available for Xbox.

“What are you going to do with the information that is sent from the rover?” one student asked. Students received official NASA stickers for participating in the program.

“Scientists like to write papers,” Wong jokingly said. “It will answer fundamental scientific information about Mars and we’ll find out if it has organics (microbial life),” he said. He showed students the drill-down instruments that are being used to help determine if life ever existed in the Martian atmosphere.

“It was very interesting learning about Mars and seeing all the pictures – and how Rover landed on Mars because I didn’t know how that happened and it was interesting,” said Annelisse Kennedy-Lewis after the assembly.

“I liked learning about Mars – it was interesting because I didn’t know anything about it before,” added Sameen Shakbi.

Wong shared that he got interested in science after watching a television show and loved the pictures of the planets.

“That’s why I wanted to become a scientist because there is so much cool stuff in space,” he said while showing a slide of the polar caps on Mars.

“It took a lot of motivation – so I had to really want it. It’s like anything in life – it’s worth the work,” he said.