On Thursday, July 30, 2020, NASA launched a rover mission to Mars that will retrieve soil and rock samples to be tested on Earth and detect signs of ancient life.
The Perseverance Rover Mission was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida using an Atlas rocket. The new rover that will land on Mars is the most developed ever sent on a space mission.
According to recent navigation updates, the course of the rover is followed and it's on its way to the Red Planet. The mission will land in Jezero (which means lake in some Slavic languages), a crater that was considered to have water years ago and that also has clay deposits. The rover will assess the ground material in the crater and sent samples back to Earth which will be thoroughly tested.
Scientists suggest that there is a high chance of microbial activity in those samples and if this is proven, it will be the first evidence ever on extraterrestrial life. "Perseverance is going to make discoveries that cause us to rethink our questions about what Mars was like and how we understand it today. As our instruments investigate rocks along an ancient lake bottom and select samples to return to Earth, we may very well be reaching back in time to get the information scientists need to say that life has existed elsewhere in the universe," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, stated.
The specimens will not be tested on Mars since the equipment needed cannot be transported in the Red Planet. The rover will collect the samples and store them in specially designed tubes. Then, future missions will be launched in an attempt to collect them and bring them on Earth.
Advances on the new rover
The new Perseverance rover is seemingly alike the Curiosity rover that was sent to the Red Planet in 2012 and recently found proof of organic matter. However, it features major upgrades which include 23 installed cameras and a microphone so that sounds on Mars can be recorded.
Moreover, it will feature a state-of-the-art instrument known as the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE). This device can produce small amounts of O2 using the CO2 found in the Martian atmosphere. This is an endeavor that aims at making Mars a habitable environment for humans beginning with the production of O2.
In addition, a 1.8-kg helicopter device known as the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter will be attached to the body of the rover for the first 2 months of the exploration. The helicopter will make the first powered flights on Mars in order to prove that aero vehicles can operate in the Martian atmosphere. The helicopter has counter-rotating blades that must spin at a high rate so it can leave the ground.
The rover is expected to land on Mars on February 18, 2021.
Click the video below to watch the launch of the Perseverance Rover Rocket.
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