Last Thursday, N.A.S.A once again created history when it successfully landed on Mars, again. The Perseverance Rover landed near an ancient river delta in the Jerezo Crater. After binge-watching the descent and landing, the Jet Populsion Lab in Pasadena (CA) shared the video on Monday. Said video showed the iconic white and orange parachute opening. Additionally, it included visuals of blowing red dust due to the rocket landing.
Thus today, we dive deeper into this success as well as the mission as a whole.
What was Perseverance’s Mission??
We can gauge the importance of this mission by the very statement made by the leader of the landing team.
These videos and these images are the stuff of our dreams.Al Chen (In Charge, Landing Team)
But what exactly was Perseverance’s mission??……..The main focus was on searching for ancient microbial life, as this would help predict the possibility of life on Mars. For this purpose, the Rover consists of a drill to collect core samples of Martian Rock and Soil. These samples would be stored in tubes itself on Martian surface and collected by some future mission.
Additionally, Perseverance will also test certain technologies that will in time, characterize future human missions and explorations on Mars. These include: –
- The Mars Helicopter called INGENUITY, which will become the 1st ever powered flight on Mars.
- Testing a method for producing Oxygen (O2) from the Martian Atmosphere.
- Improving Landing Techniques
- Gauging and characterizing potential environmental conditions in case there’s future colonization of Mars.
The Good and The Bad that Perseverance persevered through
When man thinks of traversing space with the technology in hand, he is bound to face some obstacles. Thus, Perseverance too had it’s own share of hiccups: –
- N.A.S.A had installed 6 off-the-shelf color cameras that would capture the descent and landing from multiple angles. However, only 1 of them worked.
- The lone mic that had to record the landing also ended up failing. However, N.A.S.A did get the sounds of wind gusts and whirring of the rover’s systems as audio.
However, these hiccups did not fail the mission and therefore, the flight controllers and other staff were thrilled and ecstatic. There were enough number of images beamed back. Additionally, the rover was still intact and in working condition. The lone working camera also did it’s job perfectly, which is evident from the mission chief’s statement: –
The video and panoramic views following touchdown are the closest you can get to landing on Mars, without putting a pressure suit.Thomas Zurbuchen (Mission Chief, N.A.S.A Science)
Mars has always intrigued scientists and astrophysicists and for good reason. We need to understand that out of all the planets in the solar system are solid. the planets beyond Mars are just lumps of gas. Unlike these gas based/Jovian planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars are terrestrial planets i.e those which have a rock/silicate base. Thus, this already reduces the range of planets we can physically explore. But still, why only Mars??
This is because firstly, studies claim some sort of life on the red planet billions of years ago. We know that life evolved on Earth around 3.8 billion years ago. Astrophysicists say that conditions on Mars were similar to that of Earth 4 billion years ago. Mars too had a thick atmosphere, that ensured a stable water availability. This corresponds with the Mars Odeyssey spacecraf. It’s Gamma Ray Spectrometer detected significant Hydrogen readings, that indicated the presence of water.
Secondly, Mars is also relatively hospitable in terms of temperature, as compared to other planets. Considering that only the 1st 4 planets have some sort of surface, our options are limited to physically exploring Mercury, Venus and Mars. The 1st 2 have extreme temperatures, 400 degrees C on an average. Mars on the other hand has temperatures ranging from 20 degree C at the Equator to -125 degree C at the Poles.
How Perseverance Sets the Future
N.A.S.A’s Perseverance Mission is step 1 in a multi-step project that aims to develop an understanding of Mars’s surface and environment. Consequently, the rover will spend the next 2 years exploring the dry river delta. It will carry out drilling in the rocks, that may hold evidence to the existence of life around 3-4 billion years ago.
Secondly, as mentioned before, the samples collected by Perseverance will stay in canisters on Mars’s surface and will be picked by E.S.A’s Mars Fetch Rover. Consequently, an Orbiter will carry these to Earth. It will give ready access to images (that too Panoramic) to the future astronauts. Thus, they can plan their missions decades ahead by analyzing this data and planning accordingly.
The Perseverance Mission on Mars though wasn’t the 1st one on the planet, but it was the most ambitious one till date. This mission was man’s 1st step towards inhabiting another planet altogether. However, on a lighter note, the following quote too encapsulates the mission in it’s own way :-
I know it’s been a tough year for everybody and we’re hoping that maybe these images will help brighten people’s days.Justin Maki (Imaging Scientist, N.A.S.A)
This mission marks the next stage of space travel for mankind. We can now vouch for the fact that soon, humans will have information about Mars that hitherto we could not even think of. Talk about climate or seismic activities or even the atmosphere, we will soon have access to all.
Thus, now we can be sure of the fact that human habitations will soon spread over Mars. Soon, we will witness the colonization of Mars.