Perseverance, NASA’s fifth Mars rover, successfully landed on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021.
The newest Mars rover is a product of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. The mission’s primary goal is to investigate astrobiology by searching for signs of ancient microbial life in Martian rock and soil. Perseverance is the first Mars rover equipped with a drill to aid in sample collection. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA, said in a press release, “We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental—including that life might have once existed beyond Earth.”
Perseverance will carry out its mission in Jezero Crater—roughly 3700 kilometres from its predecessor Curiosity’s landing site. While it’s dry now, the crater housed a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago. This lake had an inflow and an outflow channel, which resulted in a well-preserved delta deposit.
If there ever was life on Mars, it’s likely that it existed in, or passed through, the Jezero delta.
The Mars 2020 mission has some exciting new additions to its technological tool belt not seen in previous Mars missions.
Perseverance has carried two microphones to Mars, allowing human ears to experience sound from another planet for the first time in history. The first Mars helicopter, Ingenuity, hitched a ride on the rover and will test powered flight on Mars for the first time.
Last but certainly not least, Perseverance landed on the Red Planet with MOXIE. The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment—also known as MOXIE—tests the possibility of extracting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. If this technology works effectively, it may be an important steppingstone for the prospect of human-crewed missions to Mars in the future.
John McNamee, project manager of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission, said in a press release, “Perseverance is more than a rover, and more than this amazing collection of men and women that built it and got us here. It is even more than the 10.9 million people who signed up to be part of our mission. This mission is about what humans can achieve when they persevere. We made it this far. Now, watch us go.”