By: NATALIA PATTERSON
On February 18th, the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars. Launched on July 30th, 2020, the car-sized rover traveled 470 million kilometers to get to Mars. According to NASA, “A primary objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology research, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life.” In addition, NASA hopes that this mission is “paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.”
The Perseverance rover landed on the Jezero crater of Mars, which scientists consider to be one of the best places to seek evidence of ancient life, as there is evidence that the crater may have once been a lake. The rover will collect rock samples that will be brought back to Earth and analyzed using equipment that is too big to be brought to Mars. Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for science at NASA, believes that: “…what [the rock samples] could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth.”
Not only is the rover seeking evidence of ancient life that may have existed on Mars, it is also gathering information on whether it’s possible for human astronauts to land on the planet. While the rover was landing, its sensors collected data about the planet’s atmosphere. This information may help scientists figure out whether they will be able to use the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in order to generate oxygen for astronauts and record information about the surface of the planet so future astronauts can land smoothly.
So far, the rover has captured multiple photographs of the surface of Mars, and has taken the first audio recording on the planet. The rover will continue to take rock samples over the course of two more years, and then will return them to Earth. Based on the findings of this rover, NASA predicts that humans will be able to go on a mission to Mars in the 2030s.