It’s landing day on Mars!
Mars! (treasurecoast.com) – As NASA is set to land the Perseverance rover on Mars on Thursday, part of the rover’s mission is to take a sample of Martian soil and return it to Earth someday.
While samples of the Moon have been returned to Earth, a sample of Mars has never been returned.
The rover will land on Mars around 3:55 p.m. ET Thursday. The landing can be viewed on NASA.gov.
Returning a sample to Earth could help scientists better determine if life once existed on the red planet.
NASA said that Perseverance will collect the most intriguing samples, store them in samples tubes, and, later, deposit them so that future missions can collect the sample tubes and fly them back to Earth for analysis. NASA, along with European partners, would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The rover will land on Jerezo Crater, which was targeted due to a high likelihood of past life. It is believed that Jerezo Crater contained rivers of liquid water in Mars’ ancient past. Perseverance will be tasked with examining rocks that are up to 3.6 billion years old.
Perseverance will search for telltale signs that microbial life may have lived on Mars billions of years ago, according to NASA.
NASA says human exploration of Mars is still its goal, but in the meantime, the agency plans on using the Moon as a stepping stone to go further into space. NASA said that it plans on returning mankind to the Moon by 2024, establishing a permanent base there on 2028.
Attached to Perseverance, NASA is also sending the Ingenuity helicopter, which will serve as a drone of sorts exploring the surface of Mars.
NASA said that Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet.
Due to Mars being located 200 million kilometers from Earth, it will take more than 11 minutes for the images to beam from Mars to Earth.
The craft is set to enter the Martian atmosphere at 12,000 mph, but a series of parachutes will slow the craft to 2 mph. Then, what is known as the sky crane maneuver, the descent stage will lower the rover on three cables to land softly on six wheels, according to NASA.
Perseverance will be tasked with examining rocks that are up to 3.6 billion years old.
What is also unique about Perseverance is that it is set to be the first rover to collect a sample to return to Earth.
Here are some facts about the Perseverance:
- – It is about size of a car; it’s about 10 feet long, 9 feet tall and 7 feet tall
- – It weight 2,260 pounds
- – The rover has 19 cameras
- – The rover will have traveled 293 million miles by the time it lands on Mars
- – It is scheduled for a one-year mission
- – As the craft enters the Martian atmosphere, it will encounter temperatures of 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit