Perseverance’s One-Martian-Year Mission Starts
On Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, which was launched on July 30th, 2020, landed on Mars. This project was designed to better understand the geology and find any ancient life signs on the red planet. The mission timeline shows that this rover will be spending one Mars year, which means two Earth years, doing the research needed and gathering as much information as possible.
According to NASA, Perseverance will be searching for any signs of ancient life. During a previous mission, there was evidence that showed that Mars had running water earlier in its history, meaning there is a possibility for life on the planet. On the official Perseverance press release, it is actually mentioned that “Perseverance aims to take the next step, seeking, as a primary goal, to answer one of the key questions of astrobiology: are there signs (or biosignatures) of past microbial life on Mars?”
Perseverance has been equipped with instruments that will allow it to gather data from a distance, like Mastcam-Z’s cameras that can zoom into rock textures; a SuperCam that, with the help of a laser, zaps rocks to collect dust and study their composition and also a RIMFAX, which uses radar waves to probe geological features underground, as reported by NASA.
Perseverance has become the first rover that will collect and bring back samples to Earth for testing. “Rather than pulverizing rock the way Curiosity’s drill does, Perseverance’s drill will cut intact rock cores that are about the size of a piece of chalk and will place them in sample tubes that it will store until the rover reaches an appropriate drop-off location on Mars. The rover could also potentially deliver the samples to a lander that is part of the planned Mars sample return campaign by NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency).”
People outside of NASA will also be able to enjoy the view from Mars, if everything goes according to plan. The rover has 19 cameras on it that provide a high-definition image of what is happening, along with an off-the-shelf microphone that allows people to have a full experience.
Something to highlight about this project was Fernando Mier-Hicks’s participation, a Mexican mechatronics engineer graduated from Tecnológico de Monterrey with a Master’s and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His job during this mission was to help test robot systems. “It is the most complex robotic system that we have sent to another planet. It has 17 engines … only in the robotic arm. One hundred people worked on it and you have to coordinate with other areas for everything to work,” said Mier-Hicks in an interview with CONECTA. He also mentioned that during this mission, the Perseverance brings with it a helicopter called Ingenuity. It will be the first time that a small drone flies on Mars.