Perseverance and the search for ancient life on Mars

Hyperaxion Jul 31, 2020

Perseverance was launched on July 30, 2020, to carry out chemical analyzes of Mars’ soil and atmosphere.

NASA just launched the Perseverance rover towards Mars, from its base in Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA). The rover is scheduled to land on the Red Planet in February 2021, and the mission will last at least one Martian year (about 687 Earth days).

Perseverance and the search for ancient life on Mars
Perseverance in a laboratory in California. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech).

The rover will land at the Jezero crater, a site where rain and river formation may have once occurred, according to previous studies.

“Jezero crater was selected as the site on Mars that is most likely to preserve signs of life that might have inhabited Mars billions of years ago, when microbial life was first starting on Earth,” explain Briony Horgan and Melissa Rice, NASA-funded researchers, in a text published in The Conversation.

Soil drilling simulation for collecting geological samples.
Soil drilling simulation for collecting geological samples. (Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory).

In addition to looking for signs of Martian life, the mission will collect soil samples and test the ability to produce oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere. This last step is undoubtedly crucial for the development of future technologies that will allow us to live on Mars.

Perseverance is a modern rover and contains several important devices for scientific research, such as camera, microphone and internal computer.
Perseverance is a modern rover and contains several important devices for scientific research, such as camera, microphone and internal computer. (Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory).

“One of many challenges for astronauts will be the packing list for a two-year roundtrip journey, which includes air, water and rocket fuel to get home,” Horgan and Rice wrote. “If these resources could be harvested on Mars, human missions would be much more feasible.”

Ingenuity

Ingenuity flight simulation. Perseverance is visible in the background. (Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech).

In late June, NASA announced that Perseverance would carry a helicopter attached to its structure. The biggest challenge for this part of the mission will be to provide a smooth and safe landing for Ingenuity, which will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

The success of the mission will allow research in areas of difficult access on Mars, such as cliffs, caves, and deep craters. “The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is a large, fragile, unique assemblage of hardware that is dissimilar to anything NASA has ever accommodated on a planetary mission,” said Chris Salvo, one of Ingenuity’s developers.

Related topics:

Mars Perseverance

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