NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars with big goals for future life

The red, rocky, dusty, dry planet of Mars welcomed NASA’s fifth successfully landed rover, Perseverance, on Feb.18 after a 203-day journey over 293 million miles. This is the largest, most advanced rover ever sent to the red planet with significant goals for the future of science and human life on Mars. 

The main objectives of this mission are to determine whether life on Mars ever existed, characterize the climate and geology and prepare for human exploration. The rover is “designed to seek signs of past microbial life” with new technological improvements to achieve these goals.

The rover landed in Jezero Crater, which is the area scientists suppose was once filled with water and home to a flowing river. They believe this location is an essential place to look for chemical changes in the planet’s ancient life. 

NASA’s agents monitored Perservrenc’s safe touchdown. The landing process “takes more than 11 minutes to get a radio signal back from Mars, so by the time the mission team hears that the spacecraft has entered the atmosphere, in reality, the rover is already on the ground” (mars.nasa.gov). This would mean that as the rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it must perform the entire entry, descent and landing autonomously.

To achieve all these objectives, the rover must be equipped with the best space technologies. Many of the exterior designs are directly taken from the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012, but many enhancements have been made since then. An upgrade is the rover’s speed, which has a major impact on its moments and auto-navigation capabilities. Scientists will be able to collect more information on the planet’s terrain and evaluate it back on Earth to make better space decisions. 

Another enhancement is the MOXIE instrument that is located inside the body. Its goal is to “test technology that converts carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen” (mars.nasa.gov). This will be helpful for further research on the planet that will one day lead to human venturing. 

Equipped on the rover is the Ingenuity Helicopter, located under its body, which would be the first powered helicopter on another planet. Having a flying helicopter would help inspect the best routes for the rover and notice any hazardous terrains to further explain the conditions of Mars.

The first pictures of the surface of Mars were taken by multiple new high-technology cameras attached to the spacecraft. Even though the images are black and white, NASA expects to receive more impressive captures of the rover’s new home.