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Front Page Talking Points


Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

Mission to Mars: Spacecraft will measure the planet’s ‘vital signs’ for first time


1.gifLook for coverage of something nearly as amazing as the InSight Mars Lander. Tell why it also inspires.

2.gifIn a story about science, engineering or technology, find someone who's quoted. List at least two school subjects needed for her or his work.

3.gifTry to find news of another big, bold government project in this country or overseas. What's the goal?

America's space agency, NASA, begins its first on-site studies of Mars this fall. The InSight Mars Lander, an unmanned craft just launched from an Air Force base on California's coast, will explore the red planet's deep interior to investigate processes that shaped it and other rocky planets of the inner solar system more than 4 billion years ago. More than five dozen previous orbiters, landers and rovers have flown near or landed on Mars, but new technology now lets scientists take the planet's "vital signs" – measuring its below-surface temperature, core makeup and past quakes.

A device called a seismometer will record vibration waves traveling through Mars' interior – monitoring its “pulse,” in effect. Goals also include learning the depth at which the core becomes solid, and what other minerals -- besides iron -- may be present. Data-gathering starts this fall and will last nearly two years.

InSight soared into space last Saturday aboard a two-stage Atlas rocket, one of the biggest available for interplanetary flight. The rocket is 188 feet tall, about the height of a 19-story building. The launch was timed for when Earth and Mars are in positions that require less energy to escape Earth's orbit and enter the orbit of Mars in deep space as each planet circles the sun. This also lets the craft make the trip of 200 million miles in about six months, faster than at other times. It's the first inter-planetary mission starting from the West Coast, rather than Florida.

InSight isn't visiting Mars alone.The Atlas also carried two briefcase-size satellites known as "CubeSats" because of their shape. They'll accompany InSight into the Martian atmosphere, constantly sending back data on its progress and landing. "These are our scouts," says engineer Andy Klesh of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Two antennas on the landing craft transmit Martian data to Earth.

Scientist says: "It really doesn't matter where we land because we are interested in the deep structure of the planet." – Bruce Banerdt, principal project investigator, explaining the choice of a flat, rock-free zone

The four rocky planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars have solid cores and were formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

NASA says: "Mars is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets."

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2019
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