The announcement of Nasa’s Perseverance Rover landing on Mars was met with great applause by the mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The rover, Perseverance, is NASA’s most advanced robotic geologist and astrobiologist so far. Which will carry out ambitious and challenging exploration of the red planet to find out any traces of microbial life that might have ever sustained.
It took about seven months for the rover to make its descent into the Martian atmosphere after sailing through 472 million km in space. To help it survive the perilous descent, the rover was integrated with a protective shell and a parachute. As soon as it neared the surface of Mars, a descent staging with six rocket thrusters slowed it down to just 2 mph. NASA dubbed it as “the seven minutes of terror” because of the complex and challenging maneuvers carried out during the self-guided descent and landing of the SUV-sized robotic vehicle.
Now, for the next several years, the $2.7 billion rover will traverse through the floor of the long vanished Martian lake bed called Jezero Crater and collect soil samples for a future retrieval mission. The primary aim behind this endeavor is to find fossils that may point out the existence of microbes when Mars was potentially hospital to life 3 billion years ago. Moreover, scientists also hope to look for ancient sediments holding biosignatures which can be sent to Earth for future analysis.
Two missions have already been planned in collaboration with the European Space Agency to retrieve such specimens and send them to NASA within the next decade as mentioned by Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s top science official.
Zurbuchen also said, “Many concrete steps are also taking place towards another horizon goal, which is human exploration of Mars as well” suggesting the distant proposals of sending astronauts to the planet sometime in the 2030’s.