NASA’s latest Mars Rover Perseverance to search for life in 2021
NASA's latest Mars Rover Perseverance will begin the hunt for life on the Red Planet next year.
The exciting mission launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 30.
Perseverance will push forward the decades-long investigation into whether Mars has ever hosted life at any point in its 4.5 billion year history.
It will land in Jezero Crater on the Red Planet in February 2021.
Once the Mars Rover Perseverance arrives on the Red Planet it will start the search for possible signs of life, past or present.
The chances of finding any evidence of current life on Mars are said to be pretty slim, but it is believed the planet may have hosted life in the distant past.
Finding evidence of previous life would tell us that our home is not unique, and maybe life elsewhere in the universe is actually quite common.
And NASA's top scientists say the crater in which Perseverance will land was a possible oasis in its distant past and has "high potential for finding signs of past microbial life".
Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to Mars, and will search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterise the planet’s geology and climate, collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for possible return to Earth and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.
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The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC) instrument, which can detect organic matter, and the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), which measures the composition of rocks and soil, will allow Perseverance to map organic matter, chemical composition and texture together at a higher level of detail than any Mars rover has done before.
These instruments — two of the seven total onboard — will play a particularly important role in Perseverance’s search for potential signs of life.
Perseverance will also launch Mars' first helicopter – a challenge due to how thin the air is on the planet.
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Its super-light carbon fibre blades have to spin at 2400 revolutions per minute – about seven times faster than a typical helicopter on Earth.
The mission also aims to produce small amounts of oxygen on Mars in what could become the first step to sending humans to live there.
Mars has only trace amounts of free oxygen in its atmosphere, but it has plenty of oxygen bonded with carbon atoms in the form of carbon dioxide.
This experiment, called MOXIE, will test the technology for making oxygen from carbon dioxide on Mars.
MOXIE is expected to produce 10 grams of oxygen in an hour – barely enough to breathe for 15 minutes.
The mission will certainly be followed by millions across the world, and as with previous Mars missions, the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission plans to make raw and processed images available for anyone to examine on the mission's website.
Speaking hours before the mission's launch in July, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, summed its aims up perfectly when he said: "There is so much more going on here. This is the first time in history where we’re going to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world — ancient life on Mars.”
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