Last week Mars welcomed its newest Earthling expatriate when NASA's Perseverance rover arrived on the planet. NASA's largest and most advanced rover yet launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on July 30, 2020, and successfully landed on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, following a 203-day, 293-million-mile journey led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
After finishing its testing phases, the car-sized rover will begin a two-year project around Mars’ Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide area that scientists say held water some 3.5 billion years ago. It will analyze the planet’s rock and sentiment, in the hopes of returning samples to Earth, while searching for hints of past microbial life that have never been confirmed beyond our planet.
Helping Perseverance complete its mission are several key science instruments. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter marks the first attempt at a powered, controlled flight on another planet that hopes to give a birds-eye view of the rover’s mission, and the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) aims to convert air from Mars’ carbon dioxide-heavy atmosphere into oxygen.
For those who found the images, video and audio from the rover’s Mars expedition that came out this week, stay in touch with “Percy” and its journey with our collection of experts to follow and resources to use.
One easy way to keep up with Perseverance’s progress is by following prominent social media accounts. The rover has a dedicated Twitter profile offering insights with a voice of its own, as well as a Facebook page.
The team behind Perseverance features dozens of members, so here are just a few accounts to start with. Swati Mohan (@DrSwatiMohan) is the guidance, navigation and controls operations lead on Team Perseverance. Mohan was in charge of the effort to properly position the spacecraft as it traveled through space and landed on Mars. Planetary protection lead Moogega Cooper (@moogega) was responsible for making sure the spacecraft didn’t carry any unexpected biological material from Earth that would contaminate Mars. Chief engineer Adam Steltzner (@steltzner) led the team that created Perseverance’s sampling system.
With Kids and Students
Share the excitement of Perseverance’s mission with students across K-12 education levels. Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has a week-long Mars learning guide intended for fifth through seventh grade that offers videos and related projects. The museum’s virtual Mars Day site from 2020 filled with content, including videos explaining marsquakes, spacesuits, and women in space, and a story map featuring a virtual model of the Red Planet.
NASA has created a toolkit featuring information about both the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, as well as general Mars-related lessons and activities for kids of all ages to enjoy. The agency also has a webpage filled with at-home projects for families to learn about space exploration and other topics.
Just the Photos
Perseverance features 23 cameras, the most cameras of any NASA project to reach Mars. Perhaps the most important two cameras are lenses attached to Mastcam-Z, an instrument with “eyes” that can each zoom to create 3-D images. Mastcam-Z also detects ultraviolet and infrared light, allowing geologists to discover metal meteorites or different-colored rocks that may need future investigation.
Those interested in checking out the newest Mars rover photos can follow along on NASA’s Perseverance mission image gallery, which includes pictures revealed on Monday’s press briefing, as well as a raw photo gallery featuring even more Martian landscape photography.
For Expert Analysis
Space enthusiasts searching for more information about the Perseverance mission can visit NASA’s Mars 2020 website featuring all the details about the rover’s journey and the latest news as it explores the Red Planet. Learn about the decision to choose the Jezero Crater as an exploration site, check out an interactive 3-D Perseverance model, and read up on the rover’s instruments used to conduct research for NASA.
NASA also offers detailed projections of Mars, including three maps and a 3-D globe. Users can add layers representing past NASA landing sites, as well as the current area that Perseverance will be exploring.