“Is there life on mars?” we may soon get the answer to this David Bowie song as NASA’s
Perseverance rover has started discovering possibly habitable Mars. From MAVEN to now
landing on Jezero crater, NASA quest to search life on mars & is taking new dimensions
through Perseverance rover.
The name Perseverance is given by a seventh-grade student Alexander Mather from lake
Braddock secondary school in Virginia, USA.
The rover launched on July 30, 2020 as part of the NASA’s Mars mission. It took seven
months to travel to the red planet & had finally landed on Mars’ Jezero crater on February 18,
2021. NASA named the landing site as ‘Octavia E. Butler Landing’.
The mission aims to search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will also drill the
Martian surface and collect samples of Martian rock and soil. It will store these samples in
sealed tubes, so that in the future it would be picked up and brought back to earth for detailed
Image Credit: NASA’s Mars Exploration Program
After landing when rover took a its historic selfie on 26 th April 2021, Vivian Sun a scientist at
NASA’s Perseverance mars rover said that “We’ve known for a while that billions of years
ago the jezero’s Delta scarp was home to a rushing river. Now we know we’ll be able to see
evidence of this river system up close, getting a better idea of its size and strength of the
water rushing through it. And because the river deposited sediments and other material at the
scarp from not only inside Jezero but outside as well, it should be an amazing location to look
for signs of ancient life”
The rover began its journey across the crater floor with AutoNav technology. The team said
that with help of this technology the rover can navigate routes, drafting instruction to be
beamed up, even donning special 3D glasses to help map their course. The rover will take
charge of the drive-by itself, using a powerful auto-navigation system called AutoNav, this
enhanced system makes 3D maps of the terrain ahead, identifies hazards, and plans a route
around any obstacles without additional direction from controllers back on Earth.
On June 1, 2021 Perseverance rover began its first science campaign, leaving its landing site.
During its campaign, the rover will survey some of the oldest geological features in Jezero
crater. Then the team will observe the capabilities of the rover’s auto navigation and
According to NASA the rover in its first science campaign will pursue all of the its mission
goals as it will explore two unique geologic units in which the Jezero’s deepest layers of
exposed bedrock and other intriguing geologic features can be found. The ‘Crater Floor
Fractures Rough’ which is the first unit is the crater-filled floor of Jezero. And the adjacent
unit, named ‘Seitah’ which means “amidst the sand” in the Navajo language, is also filled
with Martian bedrock and it is also home to ridges, layered rock and sand dunes.
Perseverance’s First Road Trip: This annotated image of Jezero Crater depicts the routes for Perseverance’s first science campaign (yellow hash marks) as well as its second (light-yellow hash marks). Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.
“To do justice to both units in the time allotted, the team came up with the Martian version of
an old auto club-style map,” said JPL’s Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist and co-lead, along with
Vivian Sun, of this science campaign. “We have our route planned, complete with optional
turnoffs and labelled areas of interest and potential obstructions in our path.”
“Starting with the Crater Floor Fractured Rough and Seitah geologic units allows us to start
our exploration of Jezero at the very beginning,” said Hand. “This area was under at least 100
meters [328 feet] of water 3.8 billion years ago. We don’t know what stories the rocks and
layered outcrops will tell us, but we’re excited to get started.”
In the span of its first science campaign the rover will have travelled between 1.6 and 3.1
miles (2.5 and 5 kilometres). It will possibly return with upto 8 sample tubes filled out of 43
with Martian rock and regolith.
After wrapping its first campaign, the rover will return to its landing site i.e., Octavia Butler.
Then it will head to north and west to begin its second science campaign.
Perseverance not only will study the crater's geologic structures & history but also will
penetrate surface of the with the instrument named RIMFAX (Radar Imager for mars
subsurface experiment). In addition to this, it will determine composition of Martian surface
materials with PIXL (Planetary instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry). The instrument called
MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) will be used for measuring mars
temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, radiation and dust particle
size and shape. A SuperCam, an instrument which provides imaging, chemical composition
analysis and mineralogy from rocks and regolith from a distance. MastCam-Z will
additionally photograph martial surface with ability to zoom which will be included in the
NASA photo gallery including raw. Another instrument called SHERLOC (Scanning
Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for organics and chemicals) will
determine fine scale minerology and detect organic compounds.
Image Credit: NASA’s Mars Exploration Program
“We have a capability called thinking while driving” said Vandi Verma, a senior engineer,
rover planner, and driver at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “The
rover is thinking about the autonomous drive while its wheels are turning.”