A Mission on Mars

Two spacecrafts explore Mars in search of life

Alexis Williams, Viewpoint Editor

On February 18, 2021 the Perseverance Rover landed on the Jezero Crater, Mars after its 203 day, 293 million mile journey. 

     The rover launched July 30, 200 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 4 in Titusville, Florida.

     Talk of a potential Mars mission originated in 2011 via the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, created by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which detailed that NASA’s planetary exploration program should prioritize a Mars Sample Return campaign.

     Since then, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have produced a  2,263-pound rover and is 10 feet long by 9 feet wide by 7 feet tall, similar to the size of a car.

     It also has a robotic arm that reaches around 7 feet. On the end of the arm is a camera, a chemical analyzer and a rock drill. 

     The rover is powered by nuclear energy through a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator  provided by the U.S. Department of Energy

     The cost to build and launch the rover was around $2.4 billion and another $300 million is expected to be used to land and operate it once it reaches Mars’ surface. 

     The rover is expected to collect data on Mars for two years and is the most technologically advanced robot NASA has ever sent to Mars.

     While on Mars, the rover has many objectives.  

     The first is to look for habitability by identifying past environments capable of supporting microbial life. 

     It will seek biosignatures specifically in special rocks known to preserve signs of life.

     The next task is to collect core rock and “soil” samples.

     The last is to observe oxygen production in the Martian atmosphere.

     Even if there are no signs of previous life, this mission begins the possibility of life on Mars.

     Hitching a ride on the belly of Perseverance, Ingenuity, a helicopter, is to be exploring Mars.

     The helicopter will stay attached to Perseverance for up to 60 days, for charging purposes,  and then will be put to the test.

     The main mission for Ingenuity is to see if it is capable of hovering above Mars’ surface and withstand the minus 130 degree Fahrenheit nights. 

     The first flight, it will hover in the air for up to 30 seconds a couple feet above the surface and land.

     If all is successful, it will be the first powered flight in the Martian atmosphere.

    The helicopter will continue to test farther distances and greater altitudes, so long as it is capable of doing so, but no more than four.

Both missions have their own agenda, yet a factor in both is if Mars is capable of sustaining life.

Though we are not able to move to Mars tomorrow, this is the beginning of Martian life.