You may already know all about the mathematical constant pi (π) and how it can be used to calculate things like the circumference of a circle or the volume of a sphere. But did you know pi is also used all the time by NASA scientists and engineers to explore other planets?
The Perseverance Mars rover is designed to collect rock samples that will eventually be brought to Earth for further study. This would be the first time we've ever brought back samples from Mars! After scientists identify an interesting rock they would like the rover to collect, Perseverance uses a special coring bit to drill out a rock cylinder 13 mm in diameter. As the rover drills, the rock core moves into one of 38 available tubes that will store the rock sample – sealed until it is opened one day in a lab on Earth.
The James Webb Space Telescope was designed to look back at some of the earliest galaxies in the universe. To capture light from these distant and faint objects, the telescope must be very sensitive. Webb uses 18 hexagonal mirrors that combine to form a massive primary mirror with a surface area of 26.4 m2. This large mirror allows the telescope to collect incredibly faint infrared light and reflect it onto four onboard science instruments, like the Mid-Infrared Instrument, or MIRI. This science instrument can reveal stars hidden within gas and dust clouds and tell scientists about the materials that make up distant galaxies.