Mars Rover Makes Historic Landing

The+Mars+rover%2C+Perseverance%2C+uses+its+robotic+arm+in+an+artist%27s+concept+illustration.+

(courtesy of https://mars.nasa.gov/#)

The Mars rover, Perseverance, uses its robotic arm in an artist’s concept illustration.

Mars, a new frontier.  For years people have wondered if there was life on the Red Planet. NASA’s new Perseverance project may be able to definitively answer that question. 

Currently, the Perseverance rover is searching for life and will hopefully bring back rocks and samples from Mars for scientists to study. It first launched on July 30, 2020, in a rocket from the CCAFS (Cape Canaveral Air Force Station) Launch Complex located on the east coast of Florida. The rover landed on Mars last month (February 18 to be exact), and is equipped with a Master Cam Z which is an advanced camera that can zoom extremely far and determine the minerals embedded in Mars’ surface. This is important to gather enough data to bring back to Earth. The rover landed in the Jezero Crater – a 750-mile wide basin – located in the Idis Planitia in the eastern hemisphere region of Mars. NASA released a 3D photo of the landing soon after it took place.

The rover received its name from a 14-year-old boy named Alexander Mather from Virginia who entered NASA’s “Name the Rover” essay contest. The vehicle measures seven feet tall and about 10 feet wide, and is equipped to explore Mars for one year. The Perseverance rover is the fifth rover to travel to Mars, the last one having traveled there in 1997. This rover differs from the others, though, as it is equipped with the most powerful and up-to-date technology of a Mars rover yet.  

“I think that it’s amazing that we can spend millions of dollars worth of technology to explore a new frontier, and collecting specimens for a return to Earth is very cool,” said eighth-grader Chester Coles. 

The rover’s landing was also streamed live on NASA’s Youtube channel. But will it discover life on the Red Planet? 

“I think that bacteria and water does exist on Mars, or once did exist,” said seventh-grader James Tepper.

If there are living organisms on Mars, then learning about them could lead to further exploration of the planet and the unraveling of some of its mysteries. We won’t know for sure for another two years, though, as that’s when the rover will return to Earth. 

“We expect the best places to look for biosignatures would be in Jezero’s lakebed or in shoreline sediments that could be encrusted with carbonate minerals, which are especially good at preserving certain kinds of fossilized life on Earth,” said Ken Willford, a NASA scientist who worked on the Perseverance rover.

Who knows? If life is found on Mars, it could once again be another giant leap for mankind.