NASA JPL’s Perseverance Mars Rover

On July 30, 2020, an Atlas V 541 launched a new Mars rover, named by Alexander Mather, a seventh grader, as Perseverance. The launch went off without a hitch (unless you count California earthquakes as hitches), and Perseverance in its aeroshell zoomed off towards our red neighbor to collect scientific data about possible life. 

Seven months later, Perseverance has begun its mission on Mars after a successful landing using a very new system. The landing system had only been used on one prior mission, Curiosity’s mission in 2013. This landing system is the sky crane, a rocket powered crane that lowers the rover down to the surface gently and then flies away to make sure no debris hits the rover and damages it. This system allowed for heavier rovers to be sent to Mars and for more science to be done.

Perseverance is the newest rover to be sent to Mars, one of the trifecta of spacecraft sent to Mars in the Hohmann Transfer Window of 2020. It has many new systems that will be able to help it complete the experiments that it is tasked with. One of these new systems is a new drill that drills out chunks of the ground in small pipes and examines them as one piece instead of examining dirt like Curiosity does. This is very effective to find the age of different parts of soil or rock being drilled into as it preserves the layers.

Perseverance’s mission is about finding ancient life on Mars through looking at the lower layers of sediment. On Earth, if you look lower into the Earth, you can see signs of the dinosaurs and ocean animals across the surface, and scientists are assuming the same with Mars. Perseverance will drill into the surface and bring the dirt back in one big chunk so the small laboratory underneath can perform an experiment to find ancient life forms or signs of ancient life.

Perseverance also brought a friend along, named Ingenuity. Ingenuity is a small helicopter that was placed underneath the rover. The helicopter sent back its first systems report a week ago and is soon to be attempting its first flight. Its mission is to see if we can fly on Mars. The first flight will consist of a short hop with Ingenuity and Perseverance taking photos of each other. After that, Ingenuity will come and set itself down right were it started.

Perseverance’s mission is supposed to last a few years, but with how NASA JPL’s last rover’s have gone, I suspect that it will last for a much longer time. It’s route will take it to the mouth of the ancient river bed that is Jezero crater. After that, it will travel around the bank of the lake that filled the crater. Finally it will examine the edge of the crater to look at the lower layers of the Martian surface that were pushed up due to the asteroid that hit the surface. The next few years will be filled with lots of great science coming from the Martian soil, and it will be interesting to watch it unfold.