In its search for life on Mars, the NASA was able to successfully land its Perseverance rover on the Red Planet on February 19,2021 after a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kms).
“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk in a statement. “The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission …. personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.”
About the size of a car, the 2,263-pound (1,026-kilogram) robotic geologist and astrobiologist will undergo several weeks of testing before it begins its two-year science investigation of Mars’ Jezero Crater, the NASA statement said While the rover will investigate the rock and sediment of Jezero’s ancient lakebed and river delta to characterize the region’s geology and past climate, a fundamental part of its mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The Mars mission would allow scientists on Earth to study samples collected by Perseverance ”to search for definitive signs of past life using instruments too large and complex to send to the Red Planet”.
“Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA.
Some 28 miles (45 kilometers) wide, Jezero Crater sits on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Scientists have determined that 3.5 billion years ago the crater had its own river delta and was filled with water, NASA said.
Paving the Way for Human Missions
“Landing on Mars is always an incredibly difficult task and we are proud to continue building on our past success,” said JPL Director Michael Watkins. “But, while Perseverance advances that success, this rover is also blazing its own path and daring new challenges in the surface mission. We built the rover not just to land but to find and collect the best scientific samples for return to Earth, and its incredibly complex sampling system and autonomy not only enable that mission, they set the stage for future robotic and crewed missions.”
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.