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Robots on Mars!

From Audio: What Are Robots Doing On Mars?

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station description A Podcast For Curious Kids
But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids
Duration: 05:39
So rad. I can't wait for this to happen in real-time :)
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So rad. I can't wait for this to happen in real-time :)
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have to drink water, and everything you know has water in it. That's alive here on Earth and all of those environments where there's water, that's where we find life. But since there isn't any at the surface of Mars right now, um, it is possible that life may exist on Mars right now, but probably not at or near the surface. If it does, it probably lives deep underground where there is a potential for there to be liquid water. But we see that early in Mars's past, there's evidence that there were rivers running across the surface and lakes and all that kind of thing. And so maybe early in Mars's history, life might have been there. And so one of the goals of this mission is to look in those rocks from a really long time ago to see if life might have left behind some evidence of itself. These signs that life left behind are called biomarkers, and that's one of the things this Perseverance Rover is designed to help find. The rover will be cutting pieces of rock from the surface of Mars and collecting these samples, But one of the coolest things about this rover is that it's not just collecting specimens. It's actually going to help make sure these specimens eventually get back to Earth. What the rover is going to do is actually collect samples of the surface materials on Mars and put them in tubes. And then we're going to be sending more missions to go get those tubes and bring them back to Earth and study them with much more powerful instruments here on Earth To hopefully give us a lot more information about that question. We've brought samples back from the moon. You know, the Apollo astronauts brought pieces of the moon back so we could study them here on Earth. But this will be the very first time that we've been able to bring pieces of Mars back to Earth to study. Now, the interesting thing is that there actually are pieces of Mars on Earth that have come here as meteorites that got knocked off of Mars by big asteroids hitting the surface. But we have no idea where on the planet they came from. Uh, they're all what we call igneous rocks. So they were made in volcanoes. Uh, and they don't have any evidence in them that we can definitively say was evidence of life. So what we want to do is look at the kinds of rocks and sample the kinds of rocks that here on Earth typically contain, Um, evidence of life, like sedimentary kinds of rocks or hydrothermal rocks that are altered by water. Uh, and look at those. So we really want to be able to select the kinds of rocks that we bring back. And we've never been able to do that before from Mars. That would be a really big deal if we found evidence for life in a place beyond Earth. This is one of the things that were really interested in understanding, you know, not just as scientists, but as people are we, you know, are we the only example of life that's out there and finding another example would really be a big thing. Why do we care so much about Mars? So Mars is in a lot of ways. It's very similar to Earth, So the basic makeup of the planet is the same kind of rocks. Um, and so knowing that life started here on earth, um, and comparing Earth to Mars is a very natural kind of thing because the planets are very similar. Uh, it's also relatively close and fairly easy to get to, uh, and I won't say that it's easy to land on it, but it's relatively easy to land on Mars, um, other than other places in the solar system. And so it's one of those areas that's familiar enough. But alien enough that it's really interesting from, you know, an earth perspective about things like, What's the geology like? And whether that geology can actually host life? You said alien enough. And I just want to clarify. You mean different enough? Not alien, like there are aliens there that we know about. Yeah, that's right. I mean, strange. Hi, My name is Max. I'm seven. I live in Chicago. When can we live on Mars? When are humans going to live on Mars? Well, we're still working on plans to try and get humans out there. And in fact, the Perseverance Rover is going to have some, uh, technologies on it that will help us further that goal of eventually sending humans to Mars. So we're sending a couple of different technologies, one of which is helping us pinpoint the landing better, so that will be really interesting. The other one is that we're sending a weather station, so we'll be able to keep track of what the temperature is and what the wind speed is and all that kind of stuff, which you know, you one of the things people do in the morning first thing is they check the weather. What's the weather going to be today? So very important from a human standpoint? And then the final um, technology that we're sending to demonstrate for the very first time is being able to use materials at Mars that will help humans when they get to Mars. So the experiment will be to take carbon dioxide out of Mars's atmosphere, which is the primary gas in Mars's atmosphere is carbon dioxide, even though it's very thin atmosphere and take that carbon dioxide and strip oxygen out of it. And so the idea is that if you can generate oxygen with this experiment than you could think of building a bigger version of this experiment to provide oxygen for the humans when they get there, either, as you know, air to breathe or very importantly, as rocket fuel, so you need something to burn the rocket fuel and oxygen is a great thing to use to burn rocket fuel.
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