On the red planet, Mars, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance rover finds land to potentially be geologically rich. Which means Mars has potential valuable minerals. This also means that there is a chance that Mars can support life.
Launching in 2020, on July 30, the Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18, 2021. It additionally had a smaller landing target due to the previous rovers that landed on Mars. Having a smaller landing target can cut time driving to the location. It also helps the scientists at NASA to confirm Perseverance landed in the right spot. According to NASA, the landing target was Jezero Crater, which, a billion years ago, was a lake. The reason NASA chose that area is because out of all the areas on Mars, it has the greatest chance of being able to potentially support life.
The mission for the Perseverance rover is to collect samples from the Jezero Crater. In one of his videos, former NASA engineer, Mark Rober, states, “In fact Perseverance is the most complex thing humans have ever built and sent to another planet.” Which in fact, could be possible since the rover includes an autopilot feature called Terrain Relative Navigation as well as a new navigation system to drive faster over the rough terrain on Mars. With the state-of-the-art features, the rover will collect samples and send them back to earth with the, “poop, scoop, and shoot maneuver”, as stated by Mark Rober. That includes the rover drilling pieces of Mars, placing them in a tube, and leaving them behind for a future mission to pick up and launch back to Earth to get tested. Additionally, those steps are done by a 7-foot-long robotic arm. Although, the rover is not just on Mars, because it is technically, also on Earth at the same time. As NASA engineers build the main rover, they also build a second one that is an exact model of the main one, so they can test out different parts and possibly fix it. Since, once it’s on Mars, there is no fixing anything since Mars is about 77 million miles from Earth.
Along with the technology physically on the rover, Perseverance has a helicopter, Ingenuity, accompanying it on Mars. Completing its first flight on April 19, 2021, Ingenuity was the first controlled flight in Mars’ atmosphere as well as the first flight in a world besides Earth. Weighing in at around 4 pounds (1.8 kg), the helicopter flying around on Mars has a color camera as well as a black and white camera. It additionally has navigation sensors and computers. The drone was compelled to fly in the thin atmosphere Mars has because it has, according to NASA, one-third of the gravity Earth has.
Overall, Perseverance is digging up history on Mars, so we can eventually study it back here, on Earth. The samples to study hold the potential factors to support life on Mars.