Rover Perseverance is about to make its grand debut on Mars

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Some of our favorite space missions are ending the year with great success.

Artemis I literally landed on Earth when she successfully returned to Earth on December 11th. Engineers are now studying data collected by the Orion spacecraft in preparation for Artemis II’s first manned flight in 2024.

Meanwhile, the latest images and results from September’s Double Asteroid Redirection test have arrived. Everyone can now see the indelible mark DART left on the asteroid Dimorphos.

And the James Webb Space Telescope has captured a new image showing a dazzling array of never-before-seen galaxies.

Meanwhile, the Perseverance rover prepares for its next big move on Mars – and we can’t wait to follow where it roams.

The Perseverance rover is building a sample depot on Mars.

Persistence does not allow dust to accumulate under the wheels. The rover is about to build the first off-world repository by dropping a collection of rock and dust samples onto the surface of Mars.

These samples are part of a matching set that will remain stowed on the rover – and each cache could be the collection brought back to Earth in 2033 through the Mars Sample Return program.

The rover is also planning a course up the steep bank of an ancient river delta, where it will begin studying the fascinating material in February.

In 2021, while Perseverance was studying Jezero Crater on Mars, a massive dust vortex passed directly overhead. The rover’s microphone happened to be on at the time, and the robotic researcher captured the eerie noises in an audio recording released this week.

Wild chimpanzees in Tanzania have given researchers new insights into our ability to walk upright. Two-leggedness may have started in the trees.

Previous studies have shown that ancient human relatives evolved to walk on two legs because they lived in an open savanna – but the latest research contradicts this popular theory.

Scientists spent more than a year observing adult chimpanzees in an environment similar to that of our early human ancestors — a mix of open country and dense forest. Most of the time the chimpanzees walked upright among the trees.

The study doesn’t draw a direct comparison between chimpanzees and our early ancestors, but it did suggest that scientists need to take a deeper look at ancient humans’ anatomy and movements.

An autonomous underwater vehicle called Hugin (left) surveys a Norwegian lake.

Marine archaeologists have found a well-preserved medieval shipwreck resting at the bottom of Mjøsa, Norway’s largest lake.

Researchers believe the ship, with its unique stems and overlapping planks, dates to between 1300 and 1800. The ship was discovered during a sonar survey locating dumped munitions.

The lake’s freshwater environment has caused the ship to appear frozen in time, apart from a small corrosion on its iron nails. The Nordic-built ship probably sank in bad weather.

The researchers plan to take more pictures of the wreck next year and hope to find more shipwrecks during their ongoing investigation.

How many tote bags do you own?

My colleague Katie Hunt asked this question recently, and many of us have been surprised at how many reusable bags are stashed in our homes and vehicles.

Reusable bags are preferable to single-use plastic bags, but hordes of reusable bags pose their own problems. Being aware of how you use your bags and what you put in them can help you offset those unintended consequences.

And not only humans can make their contribution to the environment. New research suggests whales play an important but often overlooked role in addressing the climate crisis.

For ideas on how to minimize your role in the climate crisis and reduce your environmental fears, sign up for CNN’s Life, But Greener limited newsletter series.

Jennifer Hadley snapped this photo of a Magellanic penguin (left) and a gentoo penguin in the Falkland Islands.

Images of a cheeky penguin, smiling fish and a plunging lion cub are among the winners of the 2022 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

The photos are great for a laugh, but they also raise awareness for wildlife conservation and support the Whitley Fund for Nature, a UK-based charity.

Scientists have since discovered that female snakes have a clitoris. This overlooked aspect of their anatomy could serve multiple purposes for the snakes — and the finding suggests that females likely play a much more active role in mating than they’re given credit for, the researchers said.

Dwell on these new revelations:

— Scientists reached a milestone for the future of clean energy this week when they generated more power from nuclear fusion than the laser energy used to power their experiment.

— Were dinosaurs able to produce sonic booms when they whipped their long tails? Researchers finally settled the debate with an unexpected find.

— Jupiter’s moon Io, the most volcanic place in the solar system, is poised to become the main focus of NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

Wonder Theory will be on hiatus next Saturday as the team enjoys the holidays, but we’re returning with a special edition on New Year’s Eve!

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