Phoenix landed on Mars today at 4:38 p.m. Pacific Time. Confirmation of the landing took 15 minutes to get to Earth, radio signals traveling at the speed of light.
We have a robot scout on Mars again!
This is another of those teachable moments, an event to note in class that your students might tell their children and grandchildren about.
Touchdown occurred exactly at the time programmed and predicted. Such accuracy might be interpreted as a good sign that NASA has anticipated problems, and a successful mission of discovery is in store.
The University of Arizona leads the discovery consortium on this mission (one of my alma maters). Educational activities and plans for teachers are listed at Arizona’s Phoenix Mission website.
NASA is the world’s biggest player in astrobiology, the science of figuring out how life could have begun, and where it might be. Astrobiology is one of the topics Texas’s State Board of Education threatened to remove from biology texts in 2003. That this mission has gotten this far is a sweet little bit of beneficial revenge on the anti-scientists who tried to gut the books then. Maybe it will pose a warning to them on the next go-round.
Teachers, strike a blow for science, knowledge and leadership in knowledge gathering: Teach your kids some astrobiology.
- “Rendezvous with Mars,” from NASA’s Astrobiology site
- Astrobiology magazine
- Life on Earth and Elsewhere, NASA lesson plan guide for secondary grades