Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars

Is there life on Mars? Has there ever been? The landing of NASA’s latest rover may soon give us answers to these questions.
On February 18, the Perseverance rover touched down on the Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake in the northern hemisphere of Mars. Perseverance is NASA’s fifth and most technologically advanced Mars rover. NASA’s Mars 2020 mission began on July 30, 2020 when Perseverance lifted off.
The rover’s main objective is to look for signs of life by searching for microbial fossils. It will also test oxygen levels in the Martian atmosphere, pinpoint locations that may have been capable of supporting life, and collect rock and soil samples to return to Earth. Mr. Bill Fenton, instructor in physics and astronomy, said, “Even though we’ve landed crafts on Mars a number of times now, it’s always exciting to be able to do something that’s so difficult. I think that if people come together – not just Americans, but the world – we can do some amazing things.”
Ingenuity, a lightweight experimental helicopter, is stowed beneath the rover. When launched in April 2021, Ingenuity will be the very first powered flight on another planet – an extremely difficult feat on Mars, which has an atmosphere less than 1% the density of Earth’s.
Perseverance is the size of a small car and includes seven main instruments, 19 cameras, and two microphones. One of its tools, the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), will search for chemical biosignatures and organic compounds, which could indicate that Mars once harbored life. Another instrument, the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), will convert carbon dioxide, which composes 96% of the Mars atmosphere, into oxygen. This conversion could help prepare Mars for future human exploration.
NASA built the rover primarily at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. NASA first announced the project at the end of 2012, and development and construction began in 2016. In February 2020, NASA transported the rover to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it lifted off six months later. The total cost of constructing and launching Perseverance was over $2.7 billion.
NASA hosted live coverage of Mission Control tracking Perseverance’s landing on Mars. Carolyn Chinatti ’22, who viewed the live broadcast, said, “I was very impressed with the landing – the rover landed in a really ideal spot, and it went exactly according to plan. The amount of work that went into it, especially during COVID-19, [is so inspiring]; they had to overcome so many obstacles.”
NASA plans to operate the rover for at least 687 Earth days, or one Mars year. Geological samples will be returned to Earth via a Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), which will bring samples into orbit for retrieval by a second mission. NASA anticipates samples to arrive in 2030.