Fifth NASA rover reaches Mars


Jenny Loveland

One of five rovers sent to Mars so far, Perseverance’s safe landing sparked excitement for those with their eyes on the sky. Along with anticipations surrounding new data and images, fans of NASA deciphered a colored pattern on the rover’s parachute, hinted at by NASA officials. Participants deciphered the pattern, a piece of binary computer code, to find NASA’s message and the Perseverance team motto: Dare Mighty Things.

Jenny Loveland, News Editor

On February 18th, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) newest rover touched down on Mars. Aptly named Perseverance, the craft travelled for over two hundred days through the vacuum of space to land on Mars’s surface, deploying the largest parachute ever used on another world to descend. Perseverance hit the ground at 1.61 miles per hour, landing safely.

“I’ve been waiting 25 years for the opportunity to see a spacecraft land on Mars. It was worth the wait. Being able to share this with the world is a great moment for our team,” Matt Wallace, Mars 2020 Perseverance deputy project manager at JPL, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said.

The rover’s team on Earth intends for the vehicle to focus primarily on astrobiological goals by looking for signs of previous life. This objective includes taking samples of rocks and soil.  With Perseverance, scientists hope to find an answer to the age old question: does life exist on other planets? The team also hopes to collect the samples Perseverance will gather in later missions to Mars for study.

Along with these goals, the rover will send audio recordings and pictures back to Earth to expand humanity’s knowledge of what the red planet looks like on the surface. The rover already recorded and transmitted the first ever audio recording of Mars, as well as thousands of pictures. In an audio recording just eighteen seconds long, which can be found on NASA’s soundcloud, listeners can hear sounds of the rover’s mechanisms humming and a quiet martian breeze.

On a chip in the rover itself, NASA included the names submitted by almost eleven million people in the Send Your Name to Mars campaign. Due to disappointment expressed by those who missed the opportunity to send their name into space, NASA reopened the campaign for future Mars missions. Those who added their name to Perseverance’s database can rest easy knowing that a portion of their identity reached millions of miles further than any human ever travelled and now lives on Mars.

Beyond the “Send Your Name to Mars: campaign, NASA provided other opportunities for people to become involved in Perseverance’s journey, including live-streaming the rover’s descent onto Mars in keeping with NASA’s general procedures.

“Watching the Perseverance rover successfully land was probably the most important national space exploration event that I have witnessed during my lifetime. It was a thrilling step forward towards the ever approaching aspiration to send a manned spacecraft to Mars! I look forward to seeing new footage of Martian terrain and I am especially interested in the possibility of uncovering evidence of past life on Mars. The JPL team is an inspiration; it was a treat to see them celebrate once touchdown was confirmed,” Magnet senior Rhett Pilcher said.