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iN VIDEO: NASA rover attempting most difficult Martian touchdown yet | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source – iNFOnews

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This illustration provided by NASA depicts the Mars 2020 spacecraft carrying the Perseverance rover as it approaches Mars. Perseverance’s $3 billion mission is the first leg in a U.S.-European effort to bring Mars samples to Earth in the next decade.
Image Credit: (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

February 17, 2021 – 9:00 PM

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Spacecraft aiming to land on Mars have skipped past the planet, burned up on entry, smashed into the surface, and made it down amid a fierce dust storm only to spit out a single fuzzy gray picture before dying.

Almost 50 years after the first casualty at Mars, NASA is attempting its hardest Martian touchdown yet.

The rover named Perseverance is headed Thursday for a compact 5-mile-by-4-mile (8-kilometre-by-6.4-kilometre) patch on the edge of an ancient river delta. It’s filled with cliffs, pits, sand dunes and fields of rocks, any of which could doom the $3 billion mission. The once submerged terrain also could hold evidence of past life, all the more reason to gather samples at this spot for return to Earth 10 years from now.

While NASA has done everything possible to ensure success, “there’s always this fear that it won’t work well, it won’t go well,” Erisa Stilley, a landing team engineer, said Tuesday. “We’ve had a pretty good run of successful missions recently and you never want to be the next one that isn’t. It’s heartbreaking when it happens.”

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A look at NASA’s latest mission:

MARS MASTER

NASA has nailed eight of nine landing attempts, making the U.S. the only country to achieve a successful touchdown. China hopes to become the second nation in late spring with its own life-seeking rover; its vessel entered orbit around Mars last week along with a United Arab Emirates spacecraft. The red planet’s extremely thin atmosphere makes it hard to get down safely. Russia has piled up the most lander losses at Mars and moon Phobos, beginning in the early 1970s. The European Space Agency also has tried and failed. Two NASA landers are still humming along: 2012’s Curiosity rover and 2018’s InSight. Launched last July, Perseverance will set down some 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometres) away at Jezero Crater, descending by parachute, rocket engines and sky crane. The millions of lines of software code and hundreds of thousands of electric parts have to work with precision. “There’s no go-backs. There’s no retries,” deputy project manager Matt Wallace said Wednesday.

TOUGHEST LANDING YET

NASA has equipped the 1-ton Perseverance — a beefier version of Curiosity — with the latest landing tech to ace this touchdown. A new autopilot tool will calculate the descending rover’s distance to the targeted location and release the massive parachute at the precise moment. Then another system will scan the surface, comparing observations with on-board maps. The rover could detour up to 2,000 feet (600 metres) while seeking somewhere safe, Neil Armstrong style. Without these gizmos, Jezero Crater would be too risky to attempt. Once down, the six-wheeled Perseverance should be the best driver Mars has ever seen, with more autonomy and range than Curiosity. “Percy’s got a new set of kicks,” explained chief engineer Adam Steltzner, “and she is ready for trouble on this Martian surface with her new wheels.”

LOOKING FOR SIGNS OF LIFE

Where there was water, there may have been life. That’s why NASA wants Perseverance snooping around Jezero Crater, once home to a lake fed by a river. It’s now bone dry, but 3.5 billion years ago, this Martian lake was as big and wet as Nevada and California’s Lake Tahoe. Perseverance will shoot lasers at rocks judged most likely to contain evidence of past microscopic life, analyzing the emitted vapour, and drill into the best candidates. A few dozen core samples — about a pound’s worth (one-half kilogram) of rock and dust — will be set aside in sealed titanium tubes for future pickup.

ROUND-TRIP TICKET

Scientists have wanted to get hold of Mars rocks ever since NASA’s Mariners provided the first close pictures a half-century ago. NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to do just that. The bold plan calls for a rover and return rocket to launch to Mars in 2026, to retrieve Perseverance’s stash of samples. NASA expects to bring back the rocks as early as 2031, several years before the first astronauts might arrive on the scene. The rover’s super sterilized sample tubes are the cleanest components ever sent into space, according to NASA, to avoid any contaminating traces of Earth.

COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS

Speaking of clean, NASA’s Mars Mission Control has never been so spotless. Instead of passing around jars of peanuts right before Perseverance’s landing — a good luck tradition going back decades — masked flight controllers will get their own individual bags. It’s one of many COVID-19 precautions at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The landing team will be spread over multiple rooms, with NASA bigwigs and journalists watching remotely. Launched last July, the aptly named Perseverance bears a plaque honouring health care workers battling the virus over the past year.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

News from © The Associated Press, 2021

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Lambton public health warns of COVID-19 vaccine scams – The Beacon Herald

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Public health officials are cautioning residents to be wary of COVID-19 vaccine-related scams circulating throughout the Sarnia area.

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Public health officials are cautioning residents to be wary of COVID-19 vaccine-related scams circulating throughout the Sarnia area.

Lambton public health officials said Friday they’ve heard “several reports” of seniors being contacted since the local online booking system and call centre opened Thursday to residents age 90 and older.

Donna Schmidtmeyer, the health unit’s supervisor of health promotion, said they don’t charge fees to register or to get the vaccine.

“We will not ask you for any financial information whatsoever,” she said in a statement. “And, unless you have called (public health) to pre-register for the vaccine directly or signed up for the pre-registration using our online platform, no one should contact you and ask for any personal information.”

The health unit urged people to check the source of COVID-19 information they’re receiving.

“If you’re unsure or your gut is telling you something is off, it probably is,” the health unit said.

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People are encouraged to call Lambton public health at 519-383-8331 for accurate information.

The warning came amid the province releasing details Friday on the second phase of its vaccine distribution plan. A larger list of Ontarians – people between the ages of 60 and 79 and those with specific health conditions or who can’t work from home – will be included as officials aim to vaccinate nine-million residents between April and July.

More than 4,300 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed to Sarnia-area residents – mainly into the arms of seniors and front-line health-care workers and caregivers – as of Wednesday. That figure is expected to climb as fixed-site clinics and mobile teams continue to distribute doses.

The number of COVID-19 cases also climbed Friday, with 122 considered active – nearly double from two days ago – while the overall caseload climbed 24 to 2,187.

A recent spread of the virus at Kettle and Stony Point has contributed to the sudden spike as the community had 26 active cases as of Thursday. Lambton public health’s top medical official said they’re working closely with the First Nation to trace close contacts and to set up a vaccine clinic there.

But a health unit spokesperson said Friday via email the situation is not officially classified as an outbreak. An emergency shelter, the jail, a retirement home and a long-term care facility in Sarnia as well as an unidentified local business and a retirement home in Lambton Shores were all dealing with official outbreaks. The number of cases connected to those facilities has held steady in recent days.

Eight Lambton Kent District and five St. Clair Catholic District school board schools had at least one case linked to them Friday, but they were all still open.

Ontario said Friday it will shift some health units to different colours in its colour-coded restriction system starting next week, but Lambton will stay in red.

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Mars rover travels 6.5 metres in ‘flawless’ first drive – Al Jazeera English

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Perseverance rover can travel 200 metres a day, but scientists need to conduct tests and safety checks before it ventures further.

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has taken its first, short drive on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robot science lab’s picture-perfect touchdown on the floor of an enormous crater, mission managers said on Friday.

The Perseverance rover first ventured from its landing position Thursday, two weeks after landing on the Red Planet to seek signs of past life.

Taking directions from mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled four metres (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backwards another 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) for a total of 6.5 metres (21.3 feet) during its half-hour test within Jezero Crater, site of an ancient, long-vanished lake bed and river delta on Mars.

“It went incredibly well,” Anais Zarifian, a JPL mobility test engineer for Perseverance, said during a teleconference briefing with reporters, calling it a “huge milestone” for the mission.

The roundabout, back and forth drive lasted just 33 minutes and went so well that the six-wheeled rover was back on the move Friday.

Perseverance is capable of averaging 200 metres of driving a day.

The surface of Mars directly below NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is seen using the Rover Down-Look Camera in an image acquired February 22, 2021 [File: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via Reuters]

NASA displayed a photo taken by the rover showing the wheel tread marks left in the reddish, sandy Martian soil after its first drive.

Another vivid image of the surrounding landscape shows a rugged, ruddy terrain littered with large, dark boulders in the foreground and a tall outcropping of rocky, layered deposits in the distance – marking the edge of the river delta.

So far, Perseverance and its hardware, including its main robot arm, appear to be operating flawlessly, according to Robert Hogg, deputy mission manager.

But JPL engineers still have additional equipment checks to run on the rover’s many instruments before they will be ready to send the robot on a more ambitious journey as part of its primary mission to search for traces of fossilised microbial life.

The team has yet to conduct post-landing tests of the rover’s sophisticated system to drill and collect rock samples for return to Earth via future Mars missions.

The deck of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, featuring Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, one of the instruments on its stowed arm, is seen in an image taken by the rover’s navigation cameras on Mars February 20, 2021 [File: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via Reuters]

As soon as the system checks on Perseverance are complete, the rover will head for an ancient river delta to collect rocks for return to Earth a decade from now.

Scientists are debating whether to take the smoother route to get to the nearby delta or a possibly tougher way with intriguing remnants from that once-watery time three to four billion years ago.

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NASA's Perseverance rover makes 1st test drive on Mars – CBC.ca

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NASA’s newest Mars rover hit the dusty red road this week, putting 6.5 metres on the odometer in its first test drive.

The Perseverance rover ventured from its landing position Thursday, two weeks after landing on the Red Planet to seek signs of past life.

The roundabout, back-and-forth drive lasted 33 minutes and went so well that more driving was on tap Friday and Saturday for the six-wheeled rover.

“This is really the start of our journey here,” said Rich Rieber, the NASA engineer who plotted the route. “This is going to be like the Odyssey, adventures along the way, hopefully no Cyclops, and I’m sure there will be stories aplenty written about it.”

In its first drive, Perseverance went forward four metres, took a 150-degree left turn, then backed up 2.5 metres. During a news conference Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., shared photos of its tracks over and around small rocks.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks and I’ve seen a lot of them,” said engineer Anais Zarafian. “This is just a huge milestone for the mission.”

Flight controllers are still checking all of Perseverance’s systems. So far, everything is looking good. The rover’s two-metre robot arm, for instance, flexed its muscles for the first time Tuesday.

Before the car-size rover can head for an ancient river delta to collect rocks for eventual return to Earth, it must drop its so-called protective “belly pan” and release an experimental helicopter named Ingenuity.

As it turns out, Perseverance landed right on the edge of a potential helicopter landing strip — a nice, flat spot, according to Rieber. So the plan is to drive out of this landing strip, ditch the pan, then return for Ingenuity’s highly anticipated test flight. All this should be accomplished by late spring.

WATCH | NASA videos show Perseverance landing on Mars:

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover safely landed on the surface of the Red Planet last week and, for the first time, the edge-of-your-seat descent was captured in footage from high-definition video cameras, which was released on Monday. The University of Alberta’s Chris Herd walks us through the incredible images. 9:02

Scientists are debating whether to take the smoother route to get to the nearby delta or a possibly tougher way with intriguing remnants from that once-watery time three billion to four billion years ago.

Perseverance — NASA’s biggest and most elaborate rover yet — became the ninth U.S. spacecraft to successfully land on Mars on Feb. 18. China hopes to land its smaller rover — currently orbiting the red planet — in another few months.

NASA scientists, meanwhile, announced Friday that they’ve named Perseverance’s touchdown site in honour of the late science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, who grew up next door to JPL in Pasadena. She was one of the first Black people to receive mainstream attention for science fiction. Her works included Bloodchild and Other Stories and Parable of the Sower.

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