Locals watch Mars landing with special interest

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 7:13 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - White knuckles gave way to cheers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory as its latest Mars Rover touched down on the surface of the Red Planet.

Here in Reno others were sharing in the relief and excitement.

“I was excited to see if that sky crane was going to do its job and it did,” said Paul McFarlane, Director of UNR’s Fleischmann Planetarium. “It did a brilliant job, landed it on the spot.”

They were joined we might imagine by others including those at the Sparks headquarters of the Sierra Nevada Corporation which developed some of the equipment that made that landing and the exploration that will follow.

“This mission has new instruments and so scientists like our own Wendy Calvin here at UNR, (We’re told Dr. Calvin watched the landing with students online.) they can begin to explore new questions,” says McFarlane.

The anxiety of the landing now past, everyone’s attention will turn to the mission itself and its search of the surface of Mars and below where those answers about life past and present may lurk.

“There’s going to be new instruments like ground-penetrating radar that will help us understand what’s below the surface, help us understand the water and following the water and looking for life.”

“With the ground-penetrating radar we should be able to see ten meters below the surface,” adds Outreach Astronomer Seth Nuti, “and I think that we’ll be more than surprised at what we might find there.”

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