Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 30, 2020, the Mars Perseverance rover was the heaviest, largest, and most sophisticated vehicle NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet. It’s loaded with advanced computational capabilities, scientific instruments, and other new systems.

According to Lori Glaze, planetary director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, Perseverance sets a new bar for our ambitions at Mars. Because of Perseverance, we’re getting closer than ever before, answering the longest-standing questions that science has about Mars, including whether life ever existed there before—credit to NASA and Perseverance. Listed are some of Perseverance’s objectives at the Red Planet.

Perseverance builds on the lessons of other rovers to Mars

In 1997, NASA’s first modest Mars rover Sojourner demonstrated that a robot could wander on the Red Planet. Evidence that Mars once had running water before becoming a frozen desert was found by Opportunity and Spirit rovers which landed in 2004. The Gale Crater, where the rover Curiosity landed, discovered that it was once home to a lake over billions of years ago, with an environment that could have sustained microbial life forms. The rover has been exploring the Red Planet since 2012.

Important data on the geology and climate of Mars will be collected by Perseverance.

Images and data on Jezero Crater have been collected by Mars orbiters 322 kilometers above. However, a much closer inspection is required in finding ancient life on the surface. It takes a rover like Perseverance that can look for signs that might be related to life and can study the context in which they were found to see if they were biological in origin. Understanding the Red Planet’s past environment and reading the geological history embedded in its rocks will also give us a sense of why Mars and Earth ended up so different to a great degree, which formed from the same primordial components.

Drawing from NASA spirit of overcoming challenges

Not only that the rover has to land on a perilous planet, but it also has a challenging mission. Perseverance has to work on its scientific tasks—characterizing Mars’ geology, carefully collect selected sediment and rock samples for future return on Earth, searching for signs of microbial life, and paving the path for future human exploration beyond the moon. The name Perseverance, which epitomizes these activities, was chosen among the 28,000 essays submitted to NASA during the “Name the Rover” contest—credit to the winner.

High-potential landing site for Perseverance in finding past microbial life

When a space rock hit the surface of Mars, it created a giant basin just north of the Martian equator—Isidis Planitia. On its western edge is the landing site of Perseverance called Jezero Crater, which is 45 kilometers wide. Three to four billion years ago, at Jezero, a river flowed into a body of water the size of Lake Tahoe. The Jezero Crater was chosen because of its good location in finding potential signs of microbial life and organic molecules.

Perseverance is the first of many trips to Mars

Verifying ancient, microscopic life on the Red Planet will need an enormous way of proving it to some degree. As for Perseverance, it’s the first rover to bring a sample-gathering system to Mars that will secure promising samples of sediments and rocks for return to Earth by a future mission. European Space Agency and NASA have planned a Mars Sample Return campaign to investigate the samples here on Earth since large instruments are too complex and large to send to Mars.

Instruments and technology of Perseverance will pave the way for future human explorations to Mars and the moon

With the Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 or MEDLI 2 sensor suite that gathers crucial data during the journey through the Martian atmosphere, and the Terrain-Relative Navigation system that autonomously helps the rover avoid hazards during landing—these data will be used for future human missions that will allow safer landing with larger payloads to other worlds—credit to all the engineers at NASA.

You get to experience Mars

Twenty-three cameras are featured in Perseverance and other Mars spacecraft—more cameras than any interplanetary mission in history—that were used to deliver high-definition images of the landscape and scientific specimens of Mars in great detail. The processed and raw images are available on the mission’s website.

Photo Sources: NASA/JPL-Caltech, Slash Gear