NASA’s InSight Mission landed on Mars on Monday November 26th and SCCS’s own JPL parent and STEM expert, Jennifer Trosper, joined our fifth grade students to view the landing. Mrs. Trosper, Deputy Project Manager at JPL, participated on the prior Mars Curiosity, as well as the highly anticipated Mars Rover 2020. “I decided to view it with my son Jacob's 5th grade class,” shared Mrs. Trosper. “For prior Mars landings, I was viewing them at JPL and usually had to work crazy hours in the midst of the landing. This one was especially fun because I got to experience it as a person in the ‘public’ and not as a person on the project.  However, I found the experience had many similarities to watching landings at JPL - we did high fives in the classroom on key announcements like ‘parachute deploy’ and 'touchdown confirmed’ and I got misty-eyed after the picture-perfect landing success.”

Students in Miss Brook’s fifth grade class watched the InSight landing in real time as Mrs. Trosper explained the events occurring. Miss Brooks was delighted to see the students witness first-hand, the principles they had learned in class. “Fifth grade just finished a science unit on heat and energy,” shared Miss Brooks. “The last part of our unit focused specifically on heat in space. We learned how scientists develop specific tools and insulators to protect space crafts and probes as they travel. As a class, we discussed how different insulators are needed for different space crafts. The students used their knowledge to create their own spacecraft using the correct insulators (similar to the ones InSight used) allowing it to survive in space.”

NASA’s InSight Mission aims to measure Mars’ seismic activity and better understand the planet.  Mrs. Trosper shared, “By using the seismometer on InSight, we better understand the interior of Mars by measuring "Mars quakes," and we can get glimpses into how the rocky planets in our inner solar system formed. We update current models of the formation of the universe - giving us ‘insight’ into Earth's formation, as well as the formation of Mars. 

And for me, from a personal perspective, I always feel like when I learn about or see images from our universe, I'm also learning more about the God who created it all.”

Mrs. Trosper also assists with the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Expo that takes place each Spring. Students meet Mars Insightwith scientists to develop a project based on an area of STEM and bring their concepts to life. “This year, we are hoping to open up the Expo to any student who wants to enter, even if they aren't in the designated grade levels (3-8),” shared Trosper. “We will also be doing the judging differently this year. Judges will be given the time to look at the projects and critique certain aspects before the student explains it to them. This will allow conversations between the students and the judges to be more informed.” Mrs. Trosper added, “I'm also working on some ideas that will allow our students to learn more about and participate in some way in the next Mars mission, the Mars 2020 rover which is the first leg of our very first sample return mission to Mars!”