Airdate: Jan 26, 2010
Scientist: Brett Kennedy
Kids' Science Challenge: Mars - Sending an Arm
If we can't send an Armstrong to Mars, how about a strong arm?
JM: Well, there's a lot you can do with a strong arm, and in 2011, we'll be sending one to the Planet Mars! I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. When NASA launches its new version of the rover next year, it will be equipped with a giant robotic arm.
BK: This entire thing is actually going to be mounted to the next rover we send to Mars, and while really big, it needs to be able to carry a huge turret, we call it, of tools at the end of it so that we can sample things on the surface of Mars, that we can look at things on the surface of Mars, and that we can actually take those samples that we find and put them back inside instruments on the rover.
JM: Brett Kennedy is an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
BK: So, you may already be familiar with the Mars Exploration Rovers, which are on Mars right now, sort of coffee table sized rovers with smaller than human sized arms. The next rover mission that we're going to send is called the Mars Science Laboratory; the Mars Science Laboratory is the size of a car, so we can do a lot more work with a big arm. One of the big differences between the Mars Exploration Rovers and the Mars Science Laboratory is that MER was looking at the minerals on Mars from a geology perspective. MSL is actually looking for organic molecules as well as minerals for the geologists. So, we might be able to find chemicals that are indicative of the suitability for life or even past traces of life. We've landed on other planets, but we really haven't touched other planets. In this case, we're going to use this great big arm, grab onto it, and really physically interact with it.
JM: Brett Kennedy is one of the participants in this year's Kids' Science Challenge, our free nationwide competition for 3rd to 6th graders, made possible by the National Science Foundation. Can you invent a sport that could be played on the planet Mars? Log onto kidsciencechallenge.com. I'm Jim Metzner.