On Feb 18, 2021, NASA’s latest rover – Perseverance Rover, landed on the surface of Mars. With that amazing touchdown, The Rover has officially started its mission to survey the planet for evidence of ancient life.
In the past few days, we have seen amazing images from Perseverance. One of which showed rocks perforated with tiny holes. However, the six-wheeler will do so much more than just take high-definition pictures. It will also look for signs of ancient life, collect rock and dust samples, study Martian climate and geology, and deliver an experimental helicopter.
The mission will last for at least one Mars year (687 earth days) and will mostly be confined to the Jezero Crater. The crater is located north of Mars’ equator where a river delta used to exist. That makes it a prime candidate for the mission. “The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” NASA said.
Measuring 3 meters long and weighing in at 1025 kilograms, Perseverance houses the greatest tech earth has to offer. It’s a science lab on wheels millions of miles away from home. Instruments and mechanical devices will be tested and prepared in the coming days. “Project engineers and scientists will now put Perseverance through its paces, testing every instrument, subsystem, and subroutine over the next month or two,” NASA said.
To help carry out its mission, Perseverance has to rely on its main instruments. Let’s take a quick look at the awesome tech it carries:
This aptly named instrument is mounted on the rover’s mast. This will serve as the scientists’ main viewing window onto the crater. According to NASA, the Mastcam-Z will “take high-definition video, panoramic color, and 3D images of the Martian surface and features in the atmosphere with a zoom lens to magnify distant targets.”
Short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, Moxie will help finally bring humans to the red planet one day. It is designed to synthesize oxygen from the carbon dioxide atmosphere. It will not only help future explorers breathe the Martian air but also create rocket propellants on site. This ability is a big step to make missions to Mars a two-way trip.
As the name suggests, SuperCam is no ordinary camera. It is designed to help look for organic compounds, a key indicator for life. This instrument has three main components – a camera, a laser, and spectrometers. “It can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet,” NASA said.
The “Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals,” or Sherloc along with its companion, Watson, will take microscopic images of the Martian surface and perform several analyses. This is done by firing a powerful laser and measuring the chemicals released.
Under Perseverance’s belly is a state-of-the-art helicopter designed to navigate the harsh atmosphere on Mars. Ingenuity, nicknamed Ginny, is equipped with a high-resolution downward-looking camera for navigation, landing, surveillance, and a communication system. It can be used to scout the areas ahead and plan better routes for the rover. Touted as a technology demonstrator, NASA hopes this robotic rotorcraft will also help them design future Mars aerial crafts.
Over the next few months, Perseverance will record its journey and its findings as it roams the Jezero Crater. In just the first few days since landing, it has already sent back over 30GB worth of images and other data. As the mission unfolds, we can expect a more detailed picture of what might one day be, humanity’s future home.