Word Count: 603 Reading Time: 3:00
Questions To Consider
- What have rover missions already been able to accomplish?
- What is Perseverance and what are its mission objectives?
- What can Perseverance signal for the future of rover missions and discoveries in space?
What have rover missions already been able to accomplish?
Out of around 50 spacecraft that have journeyed to Mars, only five, Perseverance included, have been able to successfully land and traverse the landscape of the planet next door. Looking at NASA’s missions, the first, named Pathfinder, the rover being named Sojourner, outlived their projected lifespans, collecting and sending back around 17,000 images from both the lander and the rover. This mission entailed finding out the basics of Mars, including dimensions, atmosphere type, and potential for water. The second and third, titled Opportunity and Spirit, landed in January of 2004. They were initially scheduled to operate for 90 days, but explored the Red Planet for 15 years, and made thorough and detailed discoveries. NASA’s key takeaway from those missions was the evidence of water on Mars in ancient times, as well as potential for the existence of microbial life in those aqueous conditions.
Then came Phoenix, and this spacecraft’s main mission was to analyze the history of water on Mars. In July of 2008, NASA confirmed the presence of ice water on Mars, opening the doors to a real potential for water and a presence of microbial life on Mars. Finally, Curiosity landed in 2012, with the goal of exploring the evolution of Mars. The main objective of all of these missions was to focus on the chance that there was ancient life on Mars and the potential for colonization of humans on Mars in the future.
What is Perseverance and what are its mission objectives?
Perseverance is a part of the “Mars 2020” mission, and according to NASA, its main goal is to “seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth,” a clear follow-up to missions past. It is similar to the functions of Curiosity, but an addition to this mission is testing oxygen samples, to help the United States prepare better for manned missions in the future. The spacecraft landed on February 18, 2021, and has started to collect samples and is currently reporting data to mission control at Cape Canaveral. The rover is exploring an area that is touted to have had a flourishing environment in the past. With Perseverance comes Ingenuity, a powered demonstration that will run a test as the first powered flight on Mars. The significance is emphasized due to the fact that Mars’ atmosphere is incredibly thin. As Perseverance makes strides across the planet, we will discover more and more about the planet as well as the future of Mars exploration.
What can Perseverance signal for the future of rover missions and discoveries in space?
Obviously, the main objective of missions like Perseverance is to discover the primordial state of the planet and then look to the future, to envision what could be with scientific and technological advances from the United States and from the rest of the world. Countries like China have also launched similar spacecraft, one specific one en route to Mars titled Tianwen-1, and expected to land in May of 2021. Another example is a spacecraft from the UAE, titled Hope, which landed on February 9, 2021. As the world makes sizable strides in pursuit of the ultimate goal—sending manned missions to Mars in the hopes of colonization—these rovers are the pioneers and trailblazers of otherworldly advents.
- Rovers have been traversing Mars ever since the landing of Pathfinder, which ushered in decades of exploration and scientific exploration into the ancient life on Mars, the present-day state of Mars, and the potential for human inhabitance of the Red Planet in the near future. From Opportunity to Curiosity, major strides were made to learn more about these areas, and the landing of Perseverance signifies an even further step forward
- Perseverance took the preceding goals of the earlier missions and added the prospect of finding out whether human life could have feasibility, with whatever method it may be. It will also launch a powered flight, the first of its kind on Mars, to fly in the unnaturally thin atmosphere eroded by the solar rays beating down on the planet.
- In the future, the ultimate goal is to explore to the point where there will be enough data gathered to plan and execute manned missions to the planet. With more nations sending spacecrafts to Mars and gathering more data, the future of cosmological endeavors is brighter than ever.