NASA scientists have said that the Perseverance Mars rover is “healthy” and is transmitting many new and impressive images of the planet’s surface, promising important scientific discoveries in the future.
At a celebratory press conference on Friday, the day after the rover landed, NASA shared new images, including the first color images streamed directly from Mars instead of the later retouched images.
The rover documented its own landing via an ingenious rocket booster system and an “overhead crane.” It landed in a “pool table plane” crater in a prime location to search for traces of ancient life, the scientists said.
“I can definitely say that when we saw this picture, seeing the rover hanging underneath the overhead crane … it was impressive, and the team was in awe, and there was just a sense of victory,” said Pauline Hwang, Mission Operations Systems, surface (MOS) manager.
Hwang said the team “went crazy” when they saw the first images. “The team went nuts for… we were like cloud nine… weird, dreamy state.
“Just the clarity, and the reality, it was just amazing.”
NASA’s mission to search for ancient signs of life got a big boost Thursday after the successful landing on Mars of the Perseverance rover, the most sophisticated robotic geologist ever created.
The broad mission of the rover is to stay on Mars for a couple of years, collect data and collect samples to collect and return to Earth on a future mission. The point is to determine if there was life on Mars and to answer subsidiary questions.
The wheeled rover could begin moving around its new home in late February, and its mini-helicopter could launch in April, the team said Friday.
The space agency’s ninth mission to the cold, dry red planet was led by a $ 2.7 billion, six-wheeled, car-sized exploration vehicle, Perseverance, as it traversed the unforgiving Martian atmosphere for its intense descent and landing. . The final phase, after a 203-day journey, was described by engineers as “seven minutes of terror.”
“Touchdown confirmed! Confident perseverance on the surface of Mars, ready to start looking for signs of past lives, ”flight controller Swati Mohan announced Thursday in mission control to colleagues who beat their backs and banged their masked fists against him. coronavirus.
Perseverance, affectionately known as Percy, landed with “eyes open” taking pictures of the surface to choose his landing site. Weighing over a ton, it landed almost in the middle of the landing zone within the 28-mile-wide (45 km) Jezero crater north of the planet’s equator.
The site was chosen for its promise to preserve signs of life: it was once home to an ancient lake and river delta that may have collected and buried microbes and locked them within rocks.
A second round of applause erupted in the control room as the first images from the surface arrived minutes after landing. Partially hidden by a cover of dust, the first image was a view of one of Percy’s danger chambers. It showed the flat, rocky surface of the Jezero Crater. A second image showed a view from behind the Jezero crater rover.
More than half of the spacecraft sent to Mars exploded or crashed due to hardware or software mishaps. NASA’s new generation of rovers, including Perseverance, relied on a rocket platform called an aerial crane to lower it to the Martian surface.
Previous missions to Mars, including Curiosity and Opportunity, have suggested that Mars was once a humid planet with an environment that likely supported life billions of years ago. Astrobiologists hope that this latest mission may offer some evidence to prove whether that was the case.
“It’s hard to find bigger questions than this … we’re asking the question ‘are we alone?'” Ken Williford, deputy scientist on the mission project, told CNN. “Here we are at the beginning of a mission that really for the first time in a long time has the very direct task of looking for signs of ancient life. We want to know if we are alone here on Earth in a cold and dark universe or if life is common, does it arise when the conditions are right?
Perseverance, brandishing the largest number of cameras ever sent to Mars and two microphones that will allow us to hear the planet’s sounds for the first time, carries with it a handful of sophisticated instruments designed to analyze rocks for biosignatures, or the chemical seals of life.
It will also store samples from the planet’s surface; Future missions supported by Europe and the US are expected to recover these samples and return them to Earth.
Attached to the belly of the rover is a tiny helicopter called the Ingenuity. The 1.8 kg drone-like helicopter is the first flying machine sent to another planet and could serve as a “path finder” to discover inaccessible areas or as a scout for future vehicles.
In addition to NASA, missions from the United Arab Emirates and China to Mars also began last year. In 2023, the European Space Agency is expected to land its Rosalind Franklin rover, which will carry a drill capable of reaching meters below the surface, where biomolecules can survive protected from the harsh conditions above.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism