Just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18, NASA’s newest Mars Rover, Perseverance, landed safely and smoothly on the Red Planet. Perseverance, now millions of miles away, will make itself at home on the planet for at least one whole Mars year (two Earth years) and spend the time examining rocks and soil and exploring its possible habitability from centuries ago.
NASA describes the rover as car-sized, and it is ten feet long, nine feet wide and seven feet tall weighing in at about 2,260 pounds. The rover launched from Earth about seven months earlier on July 30, 2020. With its successful landing, the many complex capabilities of the $2.7 billion rover will be used to gather as much information about the qualities of our neighboring planet.
Some of the rover’s key technologies that will assist NASA with understanding more about Mars include an advanced camera system with the ability to take pictures and videos — some of which are already circulating around social media.
Perseverance, named by a contest-winning middle school student, will also use its advanced technology to read and provide professionals at NASA with a chemical analysis of surface materials on Mars as well as gather information regarding underground structure and findings detected by a surface-penetrating radar.
For years, experts have wanted to know more about the history of Mars since past missions to the planet showed that there was warm, wet and even habitable land many years ago. Rocks and soils samples, among other materials, will be collected, brought back to Earth and inspected in order to learn about the ancient pasts of the Red Planet.
Alongside all of the ground-breaking technology attached to Perseverance are three microchips — about the size of a fingernail — added as a part of NASA’s “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign.
With this idea, NASA was able to get more people to learn about as well as be a part of such a historic event in the United States as well as the world of astronomy. Prior to the launch of Perseverance, people across the country were able to submit their names to NASA in order to be included on the microchips connected to the rover.
When NASA launched its newest rover into space in July of 2020, some 11 million names were programmed into the microchips and have now successfully landed on Mars.
One of the people who were lucky enough to be inscribed within the microchips was my dad, Steve Barth. My dad, being one of the most avid amateur astronomers I know, heard about NASA’s campaign and immediately wanted to sign up.
He not only signed himself up, but he also entered my name and was sent virtual boarding passes by the website to have as a keepsake. With the rover’s successful landing on Mars, it’s a pretty fun anecdote to be able to go around and tell my friends that my name is officially on Mars.
Over the next two years, professionals at NASA will be able to gather a better understanding of Mars, the materials on it and the possibility of previous life on the Red Planet. The innovation within the Mars rover is astounding, and its time on the planet will provide humans with a much better understanding.