10 Things You Should Know About The Mars Perseverance Rover Mission
Header Image: Illustration of Mars Perseverance landing on the Red Planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Humans have been fascinated by the fourth planet from the Sun for centuries. At one point, there were some astronomers who were absolutely convinced that canals—created by alien life—stretched across its surface. One thing is for sure: we love exploring this little red planet and uncovering the secrets hidden beneath its oxidized iron-rich soil. There are tons of reasons why NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover mission is exciting for space exploration and space science research, so we’ve highlighted a few things you should know!
Congrats Perseverance and NASA
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover successfully landed on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021! Here’s the first image the rover took from its landing site on the Martian surface.
Wheels are on the Martian soil! 👏🥳 Wow, what a journey Perseverance and Ingenuity have had. 🔴Congrats on a successful landing @NASAJPL and @NASAPersevere! We cannot wait to see what Mars Perseverance will discover as it rolls across the Red Planet. #CountdownToMars #mars2021 https://t.co/Eqcuf7Of5x
— AdlerPlanet (@AdlerPlanet) February 18, 2021
Perseverance Is The Fifth Rover To Travel To Mars
In 1997, the first rover landed on Mars. To date, four rovers—Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity—have all successfully landed on the Red Planet. Perseverance is now the fifth rover to successfully land on and study Mars.
The Mission: Search For Ancient Life
The main goal of the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is to search for ancient life! The rover will collect soil samples with the hope of getting them back to Earth for further examination. It will also study the climate and geology of the planet, and help us determine if future human exploration on the planet is possible.
Fun fact: Did you know that NASA rovers have been carrying secret messages to Mars for years? Curiosity’s wheels spell out “JPL” in Morse code as it rolls across the surface, which actually helps NASA confirm how far the rover has traveled. Most recently, the supersonic parachute that safely glided Perseverance to its landing site had an intricate design with two encoded messages in binary code: “Dare Mighty Things” and the GPS coordinates of JPL. One more secret: “Explore As One” is etched in Morse code on an aluminum plate that holds three chips with 10.9 million names from NASA’s “Send Your Name To Mars” campaign!
Seven Months Later…
The Perseverance rover launched on the Atlas V-541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on July 30, 2020. It has taken about seven months to get to Mars. Originally, the rover was set to launch earlier in July 2020, but the launch date was pushed back several times due to potential contamination and mechanical issues.
Remember the hype around the #CountdownToMars launch in 2020? At the 46 second mark in this NASA video, see if you can spot our astronaut friend and the iconic Adler Planetarium dome! Pretty cool, right?
— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) July 30, 2020
Say Hello To Helicopter Ingenuity
A little helicopter named Ingenuity accompanied Perseverance on the seven month journey to Mars. This helicopter made history on April 19th, 2021 as the first ever aircraft to successfully fly on another planet in our solar system! Ingenuity will continue to run test flights on Mars throughout the year. Check out this cool space visualization, created by an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium, inspired by what Ingenuity’s first flight path might look like.
As Heavy As A Hippo
Not only is Perseverance the most sophisticated rover to ever rocket to the planet, but it is the heaviest, too! Perseverance weighs 2,260 pounds. For context, Sojourner weighs 23 pounds, Spirit and Opportunity weigh 374 pounds each, and Curiosity weighs 1,982 pounds.
Perseverance Was Named By A 7th Grader
NASA held a Name the Rover essay contest in late 2019 for K-12 students across the country to submit essays to help decide the Mars 2020 rover’s name. Alexander Mather, a 7th grade student from Virginia, wrote his essay on the word perseverance, which was selected from a pool of 28,000 entries.
“We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However we can persevere. We, not as a nation, but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.” – Alexander Mather
Jezero Crater Was Once A Lake
The landing site of Perseverance is incredibly significant. It is believed that the Jezero Crater used to contain and pool liquid water, which makes it a great place to search for ancient microbial life. It is 28 miles wide and has an ancient river delta that Perseverance will search.
What Does Mars Sounds Like?
Perseverance is equipped with two microphones that will send us sound recordings of the planet. In fact, it already sent us a recording while en route.
Perseverance Will Spend At Least One Mars Year Gathering Data
Perseverance will spend at least 687 Earth days studying the planet. A sol, which is one day on Mars, is about 39 minutes longer than a day on Earth. The Curiosity rover has been exploring Mars for over 3000 sols.
Landing On Mars Is Tricky
Entry, descent, and landing—EDL for short—is the autonomous process Perseverance used to land on Mars! The rover successfully landed on Mars on February 18, 2021 around 3pm CST. As it descended through the planet’s atmosphere, Perseverance needed to survive the “seven minutes of terror” before it could send a radio signal and images back to the NASA JPL mission team on Earth. Due to the delay in how long it takes us to receive and transmit signals back to anything on Mars, the rover did this process successfully and completely on its own! Learn more about the rover’s tricky entry, descent, and landing.
Celebrate This Landing, Mars-di Gras Style
The Mars Perseverance rover landed on the Red Planet at about 3pm CST on February 18, 2021. Watch the recap of our special online Mars Rover Landing Watch Party presented by Bank of America and CNA, and check out other Mars related projects and videos from Mars-di Gras.