Carson Middle School students message Mars rover
Carson City School District
Sixth graders in Laurel Dority’s science class at Carson Middle School have recently been studying Martian landscapes and geology, and last week, they were able to send interplanetary messages to the Mars Rover “Opportunity,” which is currently battling to survive an epic dust storm.
“We’ve been studying claim, evidence and reasoning, which is a huge part of scientific theory,” Dority said. “Recently, the students analyzed how a mysterious object appeared in images taken 4 SOLS (Martian days) apart. The object had a dark-red center and white rim, an appearance that has been likened to a jelly doughnut. Students used evidence to determine whether the object was a rock or fungus growing on the Red Planet. They were able to use data to identify it as a rock that had been moved from a nearby outcrop.”
While NASA waits for any signs of life from the robot, these students were able to beam support through digital communications or postcards. More than 2,000 postcards from supporters around the world have already traveled to the rover, encouraging it to “wake up” and survey the Red Planet again.
One of Dority’s students commented how incredible it would be if his message, which was sent to the rover in both written English and the computer code binary, was received and archived on another planet.
“I just thought it would be really cool to have my name be a part of something that went to another planet,” said 11-year-old Tyler Fratis of Carson City. “I just hope everything is spelled correctly,” he giggled.
The violent dust storm has been tormenting the Red Planet since late May. The storm began as a localized phenomenon and quickly grew into a massive storm, which later developed into a planet-wide event.
While there is still hope that “Opportunity” will power back up, there’s no way of knowing what condition the rover will be in after such a long period of inactivity. As NASA engineers continue to try to communicate with the rover, only time will tell if “Opportunity,” which has been exploring Mars since January 2004, can wake up and resume its mission.