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Vancouver science lovers celebrating NASA photos of rover landing on Mars

Summary

While it is a NASA mission, there is a Canadian connection

Vancouver's HR MacMillan Space Centre is celebrating the rover's landing all month long

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — From science fiction to science fact — NASA’s Perseverance rover is already sending back pictures of Mars, much to the delight of local science lovers and star watchers.

The rover successfully touched down near an ancient river delta, where it will search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet and set aside the most promising rock samples for return to Earth in a decade. NASA equipped the spacecraft with 25 cameras and two microphones, many of which were turned on during Thursday’s descent, giving earthlings their first close-up glimpses of the dusty surface of the distant planet.

“It’s a really exciting time. Mars is a place that, when I was a kid was just science fiction really. It was a place where you know aliens lived and now, those are science fiction dreams are coming true,” says Michael Unger with the HR MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver.

“We may not find green aliens walking around but microbial life-type aliens is just as good in my books.”

Unger notes that while it is a NASA mission, there is a Canadian connection.

“One of the instruments on the Perseverance rover is this thing called a ‘super cam,’ which is going to be operated by Canadians. ‘Super cam’ — and this is right out of science fiction — is going to blast the laser into rocks. Then it also has a spectrometer, so that it can read the composition of what’s inside of those rocks, that’s going to give some of the clues,” he explains.

“If there was water there if there was an actual lake, perhaps under the soil, they can find those biosignatures for life which would just be incredible.”

The prospect that there was life on Mars is one reason Unger says it is so fascinating to so many.

“To go into another world really helps us to understand what’s happening to our planet,” he says.

“It also pushes our technological barriers. The air on Mars is a lot thinner than on earth so flying something will be very challenging so we’re gonna try that out. It’s stepping stones, getting to the next step — which could be humans. All of these missions that we’re sending to Mars are going to help that progress. In our lifetime, I believe that we’re gonna see humans, walking on Mars and so missions like that perseverance is really a stepping stone to that.

 

The Space Centre is celebrating the landing of the rover all month long with dedicated programming.

“We haven’t been able to open up our planetarium theatres, but we have been producing some programming every weekend, all on the theme of Mars,” Unger says.

“We have people come up to our gallery, we have our observatory open, which has good airflow. So we’ll be doing little demonstrations, and of course in the evening, if it’s clear, we can see Mars, because Mars is out there it is visible.”

With files from The Associated Press