National coverage

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  • Mars Perseverance Rover
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Pasadena, California

A NASA rover streaked toward a landing on Mars Thursday in the riskiest step yet in an epic quest to bring back rocks from the red planet, the Associated Press reported.

Ground controllers at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, settled in nervously for the descent of Perseverance to the surface of Mars, long a deathtrap for incoming spacecraft. It took a nail-biting 11.5 minutes for a signal which would confirm success to reach Earth, according to AP.

The landing of the six-wheeled vehicle would mark the third visitor to Mars in just more than a week. Two spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates and China swung into orbit around the planet on successive days last week. All three missions lifted off in July to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars, traveling some 300 million miles in nearly 7 months, AP reported.

Perseverance, the biggest, most advanced rover ever sent by NASA, stood to become the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, every one of them from the United States. Percy, as it is nicknamed, was designed to drill down with its 7- foot arm and collect rock samples. The plan called for three to four dozen chalk-size samples to be sealed in tubes and set aside on Mars to be retrieved by the fetch rover and brought homeward by another rocket ship, with the goal of getting them back to Earth as early as 2031, according to AP.

Orlando, Florida

A dance instructor who appeared on Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” is accused of sexually abusing girls at an Orlando dance studio, the Associated Press reported.

Kevin Cosculluela, 25, pleaded not guilty following his arrest in December on charges of sexual activity with a 16- or 17-year-old child, solicitation of a minor, lewd or lascivious conduct, and illegally use of a communication device. He also has been fired from his job at Peaches Dance and Music Orlando, according to AP.

The charges followed an investigation by Winter Garden Police, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies and the Department of Children and Families, which uncovered accusations of manipulation and sexual battery by two teenage girls who took lessons with Cosculluela. The investigation found he often took students to lunch, watched movies with them and celebrated their birthdays, AP reported.

The report said Cosculluela asked some girls for nude photos and twerking videos. One girl told investigators he could be scary at times if you didn’t do what he asked. She explained he would yell, curse and ignore her for days as well as threaten to halt his lessons with her. He also would send messages which said he loved her, according to AP.

Nationwide

At least 35 deaths have been attributed to days of severe winter weather in the United States, the Associated Press reported.

Traffic accidents have claimed the most lives, followed closely by the carbon monoxide poisoning of people using vehicle or generators to stay warm. A half dozen people have died from exposure, including several whose bodies were found along Texas roadways covered in ice and snow, and a Kentucky woman in an unheated mobile home, according to AP.

A house fired killed a grandmother and three children whose mother and a friend were injured after flames escaped a fireplace in Texas. Three people died in a tornado in North Carolina. Three more fell through ice into, a pond in Tennessee, a lake in Oklahoma and a swimming pool in Louisiana, AP reported.

A 9-year-old boy was killed while having fun with his father in Tennessee. His dad was pulling him on a tube behind an ATV on an icy street when the boy slammed into a mailbox, according to AP.

South Padre Island, Texas

Residents, some of whom lack heat or basic amenities in their own homes due to the weather, have been rescuing cold-stunned sea turtles and taken them to a conventional center in a South Texas resort town, the Associated Press reported.

The South Padre Island Convention Center started pitching in Monday when its neighbor, Sea Turtle, Inc., could no longer handle the number of sea turtles being dropped off, and their mostly outdoor operation had lost power. The convention center itself didn’t have power or water until early Wednesday morning, according to AP.

The volunteers have collected more than 3,500 sea turtles so far, although not all are expected to make it. It is unknown when the turtles could return to the water. Temperatures in the area Wednesday were in the 40s. It may be today — when temperatures are expected to reach the low 60s — before the turtles can be released back into the Gulf, AP reported.

With the power returned, the convention center’s temperature has been able to bring up the temperature to 60 degrees and volunteers still are working to rescue as many turtles as possible, according to AP.