NASA’s Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars

Adam Bear, Staff Writer

On February 18, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed in Jezero Crater on Mars. Jezero Crater used to be a lake, and Perseverance is landing in a former river delta, which existed when water ran on Mars. NASA plans for Perseverance to explore the landing site region for one Mars year, about two Earth years. On July 30, 2020, the rover was launched as a replacement and advancement to NASA’s Curiosity rover.

The key objectives of the Perseverance mission, according to NASA, are as follows: to explore a geologically diverse landing site, assess ancient habitability, seek signs of ancient life, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time, gather rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by a future NASA mission, and demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration. NASA has emphasized the objectives relating to understanding Mars’ geology and looking for ancient life. Perseverance is looking particularly for signs of microbial life, as evidence discovered by other Mars missions shows that Mars likely had wet conditions billions of years ago.

Perseverance is being used to test new technology that humans may use on Mars, such as an autopilot for avoiding hazards called Terrain Relative Navigation and a set of sensors for gathering data during landings. The rover is also one of the first machines to utilize other new technologies, such as SuperCam. This instrument can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, mineralogy at a distance, and other distance analysis tools that use X-Rays and UV lasers to scan composition and look for organic material.