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Why is the Perseverance mission on Mars important?

Last Thursday, February 18, at the edge of 3:00 p.m. (Central Time), the mission control of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory rejoiced after the confirmation of data issued millions of kilometers away. The exploration vehicle Perseverance successfully reached the surface of Mars, after having made a space trip of more than six months. Now, this robot nicknamed “Percy” will have about two Earth years to complete the real mission Mars 2020, which is (in part) collecting rock samples whose subsequent analysis may reinforce or even prove a solid hypothesis: the existence of past life on the red planet.

perseverance marsThe Perseverance rover was sent into space, bound for Mars, in July 2020.

According to an official NASA site, focused on the exploration of Mars, the aforementioned mission is divided into the following four axes:

Search for habitability – Identify past environments capable of harboring microbial life.Search for traces of life – Look for signs of possible past microbial life in these habitable environments, particularly in special rocks that retain traces of life over time.Sample storage – Collect rock and soil samples, and store them on the Martian surface.Preparation for humans – Test the production of oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars.

Prior to the feat of the Perseverance rover, its Curiosity counterpart landed in a different Martian region in the summer of 2012. Yet, being nine years younger, “Percy” boasts a variety of enhancements to his specialized instrumentation that empower him to perform tasks more complex. For example, it has a total of 19 cameras built in, as well as (and this is a novelty item) two microphones that will allow, for the first time, to hear sounds from the red planet.

Attached to the exploration vehicle, a robotic helicopter called Ingenuity, with which it is intended to orchestrate the first motorized flight on Mars. In this way, it will be possible to locate sites of scientific interest from above and generate new exploration routes for future missions.

perseverance marsFirst image captured by Perseverance on Mars. Source: NASA

This explorer robot landed in the so-called jezero crater, thought to have been the bed of a lake millions of years ago. If it really consists of an ancient body of water, this depression of 49 kilometers in diameter becomes the ideal place to find signs of microbial life. Perseverance will collect rocks and soil samples – using an extraction system never used before in a Martian mission – and will also keep such specimens inside a sealed metal container, with which their correct preservation would be guaranteed during their stay on the surface of Mars. The idea is that later missions will have the task of “recovering the samples and transporting them to Earth for intensive laboratory analysis” (via).

Of course, a priority remains to delve into the feasibility of future human expeditions to the red planet. “Percy” will monitor the weather, but the most interesting thing is that he will test a technology to produce oxygen based on the carbon dioxide that makes up 96% of the Martian atmosphere. The possibility of generating oxygen on Mars is one more step towards a hypothetical future where human beings will be able to travel, inhabit and carry out research in our planetary neighbor for a long period of time.

perseverance marsStill from The Martian (2015), an award-winning drama about a scientist (Matt Damon) who is stranded on Mars during a NASA mission.

While we wait for new updates around the Mars 2020 mission, we can enjoy space-themed streaming shows like The chosen of glory, Disney Plus, and For All Mankindby Apple TV Plus.

Mars 2020 Mars Perseverance

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Toño Guzmán I have a very bad memory. Out of solidarity with my memories, I choose to lose myself too. Preferably in a movie theater.