Going to Mars

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been fascinated with the moon, the planets, and stars. Being far away from the city lights, able to see uncountable numbers of celestial objects, was something I looked forward to. I don’t even begin to understand the science behind these bodies. What are they made of? How long have they been shining? Will they burn out? Despite my lack of scientific knowledge, my fascination is not diminished.

Today was an exciting day! NASA sent another object to Mars-the InSight Lander. It has been traveling on a seven-month, 300-million-mile journey, and today was landing day! Apparently, it is supposed to spend two years studying the inner workings of the planet by measuring seismic activity. I know enough to understand that means earthquakes on our planet.

My point is not understanding all of the science behind today’s events or their purposes for our society. It’s really about curiosity and how events such a this spur the imagination. Sharing this information with some of my students, watching live while the scientists waited on the landing, their anticipation and excitement were contagious.

Even though we could not visibly see the InSight Lander, there was a countdown scrolling along the bottom of the screen. With each goal that passed-heat shield working-heat shield separating-parachute deploying-students would gasp as if they’d been holding their breath. Once the landing was announced, they clapped and cheered right along with the scientists in that NASA project control room.

Of course, there were some funny moments too. More than one precious kiddo asked, “Are we sending a man to Mars or just a robot?” “Mrs. Morris, I’m so excited about a person going to Mars!” “Not a person…not a person.” Also a few concerned, confused looks. Possibly related to watching too many sci-fi movies or playing too many video games. With a little reassurance and my simplified explanations, they were at least able to understand the basics of what was happening, and know that we were not being attacked by Martians.

I’m sure there will be some interesting conversations tonight if students are asked what they did in music class today. Who knows? Maybe that little detour from our music lesson sparked some new interest. It certainly reminded me of the beauty not only in our world but also in our universe.

We may not be able to see it all up close and personal, but we can appreciate it by simply gazing at the night sky, looking through a telescope, or viewing images taken in space and transmitted back to Earth…from a camera on a capsule…which traveled for seven months…and then landed on Mars.

I can’t wait to show my students the first image that was sent back from the surface of Mars today!

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