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Franceinfo junior. High school students investigate origin of video from Mars with journalist

Excerpt from the video showing the Perseverence probe the day after its landing on Mars, while it is Curiosity in 2016. (SCREEN CAPTURE)

From March 22 to 27, it is Press and Media Week in the school. On this occasion, franceinfo junior gives way to “Vrai du Faux junior” with Emilie Gauteau, journalist for the Cellule du Vrai du Faux. For this special program, high school students played the journalists checking information: they are second students of the Claude Bernard high school in Paris, met by Emilie Gautreau and the journalist Antoine Deiana. The opportunity to give them advice so as not to be fooled by rumors and false information, but above all to verify one with them. The challenge of the day: to verify the veracity of a video posted on Twitter on February 18 and which would have been taken on the planet Mars by the Perseverance robot, the NASA robot which had just landed on the red planet. At the microphone of the journalists, Sarah and Joanna give their opinion on the subject: “I have the impression that it is a montage” says one of them. “I think the video is fake (…) We don’t even know if the source is reliable.”

In this kind of investigation, going back to the source is indeed the key to verification. It is also the job of journalists to dig and follow these leads, as Emilie Gautreau explains: “We realized that this video was released on the morning of February 18 when Perseverance had not even landed on Mars yet.”

A good start but the investigation continues with Paul and Amir: “We can go to official sites like that of NASA”, explains one of them. “It may be images of Mars but not from Perseverance, but from another rover sent before.”

Here is a new avenue to explore! And the pupils give ideas to reassemble it: “I would look at all the missions that there have been on Mars” and then “We can try to look for pictures of Perseverance and compare to what we see on the video.” In a few clicks, the journalists realized that the first photos of the Perseverance robot were in black and white, nothing to do with the color video posted on Twitter!

After a thorough investigation, the journalists also realized that the Perseverance robot is in fact not the first robot sent to Mars, and one of its predecessors, the Curiosity rover, is still there … react the high school students-investigators: “Perhaps the same should be done with Curiosity” : what journalists do! Tony, high school student, completes: “I spotted a photo on the NASA website that calls out to me. It would be nice to see the video again because I think I saw this image on it.” Tony has the eye because at the end of the video posted on Twitter, a fleeting inscription appears, mentioning … Curiosity, the predecessor of Perseverance. One of the students took it a step further, realizing that it was in fact a collage of photos “taken by the Curiosity robot and not by Perseverance”. Which therefore suggests that the images of the posted video are in fact older than expected! To go even further, the students and journalists also investigated the origin of the sound, heard in the video, to find its origin there too. An investigation and a complete decryption of “Vrai du Faux junior” that you can listen to in full on this page, at the microphone of journalist Marie Bernardeau.

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