NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, has landed successfully on the Red Planet this week. After a journey of 203 days and 293 million miles, the intrepid robotic explorer touched down at 3:55pm EST on Thursday. It hopes to pave the way to bringing samples back to Earth for examination. With a sample caching system, the most cameras ever sent to Mars and seven primary instruments, Perseverance will build on the work of its predecessors to answer the age old question: was there life on Mars?
What will Perseverance Do?
The rover is planned to explore the Jezero Crater region of the planet on a two-year mission. The 45km-wide crater is located on the western edge of an even bigger impact basin known as Isidis Planitia. This is a particularly interesting place because, thanks to the hard work of scientists, we know that 3.5 billion years ago it was filled with water. Could life have evolved in this vast lake? Could it still be there? These are questions Perseverance will help to answer.
However, Perseverance is not just a rover. It also carries the Ingenuity helicopter, which is now being charged by the rover before being left to its own devices in a month or two’s time. It will then rely on its own solar panels to generate power. This technology demonstration, if successful, will be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. It could create a wealth of opportunities for future spacecraft sent to Mars!
It’s only been a few days, but we are already receiving images and data from the craft. It will take a few months before Perseverance starts its science mission, looking for rock and sediment samples. For now, the engineers will be checking instruments, updating software, and finding the perfect place to drop off Ingenuity and begin the search. What might they find with a little perseverance?