By Sara Muharremi, Staff Writer
After a seven month journey from planet Earth, on February 18 2021 NASA’s rover, “Perseverance,” landed safely on Mars’ surface in the Jezero Crater. NASA sent Perseverance to the red planet as a direct study in order to find out whether or not there are any signs of previous life on Mars.
The race for finding out more information about Mars is on. European and American spacecrafts have already been studying the planet from space, and now China along with the United Arab Emirates have joined the studies from space as well. What is special about Perseverance is that it didn’t need to go into orbit first (as the spacecraft from the other countries did), but rather it was able to take a direct path onto the surface at a speed of more than 12,000 miles per hour.
The entire Perseverance rover project cost NASA almost $2.7 billion. The robot is almost the size of a car, has lasers that can analyze chemical makeups of rocks on Mars, 23 high-tech cameras, microphones, and can also use a “ground-penetrating radar to identify the chemical signatures of fossilized microbial life that may have thrived on Mars when it was a planet full of flowing water.”
There is a lot of hope for Perseverance. The remarkable machine will be responsible for looking for any signs of habitability. We know that there have been a couple of wet and previously potentially habitable areas so the rover will try to identify any environments that could’ve been capable of supporting microbial life. It also has the tools to be looking for these habitable signs within rocks that are known to preserve such signs. According to Dr. Williford, “We’re looking for lifelike shapes, and lifelike compositions. Chemical compositions – so the elements, the minerals, the molecules, the organic molecules that we know are associated with life – we’re looking for all of those things occurring together.”
Perseverance will hopefully be able to collect samples so it can be brought back to Earth for further analysis. The rover will seal the rock samples into tubes and release them onto Mars’ surface. Then a rover from the European Space Agency will pick up the sample-containing tubes to a small rocket which will then be transferred to another spacecraft that will take them back to Earth for studying. This however isn’t projected to occur until roughly 2030.
Perseverance, the rover robot, has a long and lonely mission to accomplish on Mars. We don’t know too much about our red planet neighbor, but this spacecraft will hopefully change that. Perseverance has even already sent its first audio recording from the planet. No, unfortunately we cannot hear any aliens, but you do hear the gentle ‘whoosh’ of Martian air. By the time Perseverance collects all of its data, perhaps it’ll find that humans can live on Mars and the Perseverance rover can tour us around the Jezero Crater one day.