New rover lands on Mars

Perseverance, the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to Mars, safely landed on the Red Planet after its 292.5 million-mile journey from Earth on Feb. 18.

Perseverance was sent in July 2020 to search for evidence of past microbial life on Mars and study the planet’s climate and geology; it will collect samples that will be returned to Earth by the 2030s. Another mission is to test whether it’s possible to extract oxygen from Martian rock.

“Mars is currently the most habitable planet in our solar system besides earth. They are similar in size, and at one point it is believed Mars had large oceans and macroscopic organisms like plants,” Zachary Thomas, Jupiter High sophomore, said. “It is important to study mars as a possible second home.”

The rover ventured out of its landing site in the Jezero Crater two weeks after it landed. To date, it has put 21 feet on its odometer in its first test drive.

The path Perseverance will traverse is about 15 miles long, which is a journey that will take years, considering the rover drives a bit less than 0.1 miles per hour; this is three times faster than previous NASA rovers. 

The rover can be loaded with more sensors and research instruments than its predecessors. It has 23 cameras and a stronger gripper arm. 

Perseverance has a helicopter onboard, which was unseen on a planetary mission before. This marks the first time NASA is able to collect data from flight in atmospheric conditions that differ from those on Earth.

The 4-pound helicopter Ingenuity will begin exploring Mars in 30 to 60 days and will offer NASA a bird’s-eye view of the Red Planet’s surface. The rover will drop the helicopter on the surface of Mars and roll away from it over a process that takes about 10 days. Ingenuity’s first flight will last about 20 seconds. 

The rover itself weighs about 1,000 kilograms, the size of a small car, and will explore the crater over the next two years. Any images sent back by Perseverance will immediately be available to the public on NASA’s site: .