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The Spill: Perseverance For Mars

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By:  |  March 11, 2020  |    935 Words

NASA’s Perseverance rover (Xinhua/NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Images)

Student Names Mars Rover

How would you like to name NASA’s Mars Rover? One lucky student got that honor after winning an essay contest. Alex Mather, a seventh-grade student from Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, named the rover on March 5 and the device, formerly known as Mars 2020, officially became Perseverance. Mather got up on stage and read a passage from his winning essay:

“If rovers are to be the quality of us as a race … we missed the most important thing: perseverance. We are a species of explorers and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. We, not as a nation but as humans will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”

Perseverance will be making its voyage to Mars in July or August of this year and will traverse the area called the Jezero Crater. Its mission is to collect samples that will be brought back to Earth in the future.

Rovers are designed to travel the red planet and gather geological materials to help scientists better understand Mars. The first rover was named Sojourner, after the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, and it settled on Mars on July 4, 1997. It landed in Ares Vallis, which is an ancient flood plain. Powered by solar panels, it was designed for only a one-week trip but ended up lasting for three months and sending back more than 550 images to Earth.

In January 2004, two more rovers were sent: Spirit and Opportunity. Their mission was to seek out signs of past water activity on the planet. On August 6, 2012, the rover Curiosity touched down on the red planet. It was the first of the rovers not to be solar powered and instead uses a nuclear radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Its mission is to discover if Mars ever had the ability to host living organisms. In 2018, it discovered organic materials in 3.5-billion-year-old Martian rocks. NASA said the “rover is also a media darling, with a penchant for snapping selfies.”

Perseverance will join its brothers and sisters this year and begin its own journey of discovery.

Earth Gains a New Moon

The Earth has a new moon, but it probably won’t hang around for long. It was discovered on February 19 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. A dim object was seen moving fast across the sky, so for the next few days, six more researchers and observatories from around the world kept an eye on it too. They named the object 2020 CD3 and found that it was bound to the Earth by gravity for about three years.

The new moon is about the size of a car so it is in no competition with our main moon. Scientists still don’t know where it came from, but one theory is that 2020 CD3 traveled from the solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This is not like the moon we are used to seeing; it is referred to as a minimoon. The definition of such a moon is “a natural satellite that is captured by a planet’s gravitational pull.” In other words, it is an asteroid.

The current minimoon circles the planet about once every 47 days and its orbit keeps it far outside the main moon’s path. Its orbit isn’t stable though, so it will eventually be flung away from the Earth. “It is heading away from the Earth-moon system as we speak,” Grigori Fedorets from the Queen’s University Belfast in the United Kingdom said. It could be gone as soon as April.

This isn’t the first asteroid to be captured by the Earth’s gravitational pull. Starting in September 2006, the first known minimoon, 2006 RH120, orbited for almost a year.

Joe Biden Steams Ahead in Primaries

With the 2020 election just around the corner, the Democratic Party is holding primaries to decide who will go up against the Republican Party candidate, President Trump.

This week saw the race narrow to just two serious contenders: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Although initial primaries and caucuses gave Sanders a head start, Biden had a surprise catch-up on Super Tuesday and pulled even further ahead on March 10, when six states held primaries. A primary is a state vote where people can choose between candidates in the same party. The candidates are awarded delegates according to their popularity. These delegates will then support their candidate to become the party’s presidential nominee in the 2020 election.

March 10 saw Biden pull far ahead of Sanders, winning four of the six participating states: Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, and Missouri. Sanders won North Dakota. Washington has yet to declare a winner, but the race is neck-and-neck in that state.

Biden is also being boosted by extra support from his party. Several of the candidates who dropped out of the primary race have come out to support him, including former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and California Senator Kamala Harris. “He is kind and endlessly caring, and he truly listens to the American people,” Harris said of Biden.

Who is Joe Biden, anyway? Born in 1942, he was raised in Pennsylvania and Delaware before studying law. He joined the Democratic Party and was elected as a Delaware Senator in 1972, the sixth-youngest American to be given a Senate seat. He stayed in the position until 2009 when he resigned to take on the role of vice president under President Barack Obama.

Biden had unsuccessful bids to become president in 1988 and 2008, but never managed to become the party nominee – will 2020 finally be the year he achieves this goal?

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