NASA’s MARS ROVER Perseverance

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is designed to better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of ancient life on the planet.  The rover was launched by United Launch Alliance Atlas 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It is set to arrive on Mars on February 18, 2021 at the site of an ancient river delta in a lake that once filled Jezero Crater. The mission is planned for at least one Mars year (which is about 687 days on Earth) exploring the landing site region.

Perseverance comes as the third launch to Mars in one month after UAE’s Hope probe and China’s Tianwen-1.

Key Mission Objectives

  1. Explore geologically diverse landing site and study the climate of Mars.
  2. Determine if Mars Ever Supported Life
  3. Gather Martian rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by a future NASA mission, with the goal of looking for bio-signatures: signatures of present and past life on the Red planet.
  4. It will also test new technology to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars.

New Technology

  • When NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars, it will be carrying onboard the helicopter ‘Ingenuity’. It is the first helicopter ever designed to fly in the thin Martian air.
  • The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Experiment on Resource Use (MOXIE) is a development study to produce small amount of pure oxygen from Martian atmostphere.
  • Perseverance will carry seven instruments to conduct its science and exploration technology investigations on the Red planet.

Reason for interest in Mars

Scientists are deeply interested in Mars because of its perceived past potential to host life. Evidences suggest that the planet was once far warmer and wetter - conditions that could have supported life.  The proximity of Mars to Earth is another big reason why so many spacecrafts were launched to study its climate and geology. Planetary lines make Mars missions feasible every 26 months, and in eight months or less a probe will arrive there. The business travel program of Elon Musk has resulted in an growing interest in the Red Planet research and exploration.

Previous NASA Missions for Mars

In 1997, NASA launched the Mars Pathfinder Mission, followed by Spirit and Opportunity in 2003. The third mission to Mars was Curiosity in the year 2012.