Friday marks a year since NASA launched its Perseverance rover on an audacious mission to Mars.
Since it landed within 45 kilometers wide Jezero crater In February, Perseverance has accomplished more than any other Mars rover. He has collected rock samples for a future return to Earth; deployed a miniature helicopter, the first helicopter to fly over another planet; and it converted carbon dioxide into oxygen, to name a few accomplishments.
The rover is one of three unmanned spacecraft from three different countries that left for Mars in July 2020, along with the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe and China’s Tianwen-1 rocket.. All three took advantage of a timely launch window when objects launched from Earth would have a shorter and more efficient path to Mars due to the alignment of the planets.
The main goal of perseverance is to look for signs of ancient life, particularly in certain rocks that are known to retain signs of life over time. Scientists believe that a network of rivers likely flow into the Jezero Crater, making it a prime location for life to evolve on Mars.
“You know, on Earth, one of the reasons we don’t really have a great understanding of where and when life started is because the rocks have been completely destroyed by plate tectonics and erosion and all that,” Briony said. Horgan. Horgan, a member of the Perseverance rover science team, is also a co-investigator for the Kinsey massive camera system, which captures the impressive images sent from Mars.
“On Mars, there are 4 billion-year-old rocks that are sitting on the surface where they were deposited, waiting for us to look at them,” Horgan added. “And it’s very possible that some of those rocks may contain signs of how life began on Mars, but then they tell us how life began on our own planet.”
The patterns of Mars’ atmosphere, wind, and climate also play a key role in determining whether microbial life existed. So Perseverance brought in the Ingenuity helicopter, which completed its historic first powered flight in another world on April 19. The helicopter continues to hit milestones, recently completing its 10th flight and passing the 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) mark.
The next day brought another scoop.
On April 20, the rover’s sixtieth day on Mars, Moxies, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, one of several science instruments that the rover brought to its mission, produced 5 grams of oxygen from the thin layer rich in carbon dioxide of the planet’s atmosphere.
NASA hopes to send a manned mission to Mars in the next 20 years and, if possible, build a research station. But human survival on Mars for an extended period of time comes with its own set of unique challenges, the first of which is providing enough oxygen for astronauts to breathe.
Perseverance will spend at least one year on Mars (nearly two Earth years) exploring the region of the landing site. Although the rover has primarily a scientific mission, it will continue to test a variety of technologies that may pave the way for ambitious exploration efforts in the future.
For more information on the Perseverance missions on Mars, see this CNET Explainer.
Roll on Percy.