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Students Send Rover to the Moon

College students will send a rover that they designed and built to the surface of the Moon.

All media – Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

Iris is headed to the Moon.

If all goes as planned, a rover called Iris will be sent to the lunar surface on a rocket on May 4, 2023. Iris wasn’t built by seasoned experts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) but by a group of college students who will go down in history as the first Americans to send an uncrewed rover to the Moon.

The architects of Iris are current and former students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, as well as university professors.

“Hundreds of students have poured thousands of hours into Iris. We’ve worked for years toward this mission, and to have a launch date on the calendar is an exciting step,” said Raewyn Duvall, commander of the Iris mission. “Iris will open up lunar and space exploration by proving that a tiny, lightweight rover built by students can succeed on the Moon.”

At 4.4 pounds (2.0 kilograms), with a frame the size of a shoebox, the rover will be the smallest ever to travel into space. During the mission, which will last a few days, Iris will take images of the lunar surface and send them back to Earth.

Everything will be controlled by the students at Carnegie Mellon. They’ll oversee the lunar mission, controlling the rover as it explores the surface of the Moon. Working in shifts, they’ll ensure that someone is monitoring the rover around the clock. The students spent weeks preparing for Iris’s lunar adventure. They learned how to steer the rover—and what to do if anything goes wrong—by conducting simulations here on Earth.

The students are way ahead of NASA. The space agency plans to send its own rover to the Moon in late 2024, in advance of a human mission to the Moon that’s scheduled for 2025.

All media – Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

Carnegie Mellon students prepared and tested the Iris lunar rover.

Did You Know?

NASA/JPL

This animation shows the Perseverance rover collecting a soil sample on Mars.

NASA has sent five rovers to Mars. Two of them, Curiosity and Perseverance, are still working. In general, these rovers have explored the Red Planet looking for signs that it has the elements needed to support life.

This is Us

Two individuals prepare to bury a time capsule with a dialog bubble showing newspapers, cash, a Taylor Swift concert poster, and more.

© Woodhouse84, Fotografiekb, Natalia Duryagina, Roberto Scandola/Dreamstime.com, © Spatzenballet, angelmaxmixam/stock.adobe.com, © TokenPhoto—E+, Westend61/Getty Images, Manny Carabel/Getty Images Entertainment; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Along with the Iris rover, the Carnegie Mellon students will place something else on the lunar surface: a time capsule called the MoonArk. The time capsule is filled with pictures, poetry, and objects meant to convey life in the present day. The goal is for the capsule to be opened far into the future. Maybe, in hundreds or thousands of years, a human or other being will find the MoonArk.

Time capsules exist right here on Earth. Some of them are pretty old—and a few were the work of people whose names ended up in our history books.

The most famous time capsule is embedded in the corner of the Massachusetts State House in Boston, Massachusetts. It was first placed there in 1795 by Governor Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and William Scollay, who had been a colonel in the American Revolution. The capsule didn’t see the light of day again until 1855. That year, the items inside were cleaned and documented, and more items were added before the capsule was reburied.

When the capsule was opened again in 2015, here’s what was inside:

  • Several newspapers, with dates and contents too faded to read
  • Twenty-four coins dating from the 1650s to the 1850s
  • A copper medal with George Washington’s image on it
  • A seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • A silver plaque inscribed by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams

The capsule was reburied with a few new additions, including a set of 2015 U.S. coins and a silver plaque.

A time capsule says a lot, not only about its time but about the people who put it together. What would you put in a time capsule?

Hello Up There

NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

Why is there a dark side of the Moon? Why does the Moon look like a circle on some nights and a crescent on others? And where did the Moon even come from? You can find out at Britannica School!

WORD OF THE DAY

apogee

PART OF SPEECH:

noun

Definition:

the point in outer space where an object traveling around Earth (such as a satellite or the Moon) is farthest away from Earth 

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