Learning With: ‘NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission’

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Learning With: ‘NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission’

Before reading the article:

What do you know about Mars?

Have you ever seen it through a telescope, or even with the naked eye?

Last Wednesday, NASA announced that its rover Opportunity had concluded its mission on the Martian surface. Take a look at this visual interactive showing its 15-year journey.

• What did you notice?

• What questions do you have?

Now, read the article “NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission” and answer the following questions:

1. While the golf cart-size Opportunity “lived” for over 14 years, how long was it originally expected to last? How long did its twin, Spirit, operate for?

2. Over the life of the mission, how many miles did Opportunity travel? How did it change the “paradigm” for the exploration of a planet?

3. Opportunity was officially declared dead on Feb. 13. How long had it been silent for? What do NASA scientists believe to be the cause of the rover’s demise?

4. What was Opportunity and Spirit’s mission? How did two previous NASA failures influence their mission?

5. NASA believes that data gathered by Opportunity helps to confirm that Mars was once habitable. What evidence does the article provide? What type of organism do scientists believe could have lived with those conditions?

6. As the last commands were sent to the Opportunity rover, scientists working on the project hugged and cried, and tweeted messages to the public featuring affectionate hashtags like #ThankYouOppy and #GoodnightOppy. Why do you think scientists became so connected to an inanimate object? Do you think you might have as well if you had been part of the NASA team?

Finally, tell us more about what you think:

— What did you learn about NASA’s missions to Mars and about the planet itself? What was the most fascinating, intriguing or surprising thing you read?

— The cost for the two rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, was about $800 million, and overall project costs reached about $500,000 a month. Do you think space exploration and research are worth the high price tag? Would you fund continued explorations of Mars? Why?

— Do you think humans will visit or live on Mars in your lifetime? Would you want to travel to the planet? Why or why not?

Further Resources:

Photos From the Opportunity Rover’s Mission on Mars

NASA’s InSight Mission Has Touched Down on Mars to Study the Red Planet’s Deep Secrets