NASA’s Perseverance rover is currently roving across Jezero and exploring the Delta Front in campaign #2. In this area, scientists hope to find evidence of past life. Ancient biomarkers, complex organic molecules created by life, can be preserved in rocks for billions of years. Perseverance is currently searching for these biomarkers. The mission’s mission scientists hope to have a full picture of what Mars looked like billions of years ago.
Perseverance’s camera suite
The NASA Perseverance rover has been delivering stunning pictures of Mars’s surface to Earth. The rover was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 30 July 2020. It traveled through space enclosed in a protective aeroshell that consisted of a conical backshell, a heat shield, and a rover-like cruise stage. The rover was successfully landed on Mars in the right place, having travelled 470 million km from Earth. Its aeroshell survived the rover’s flight through space, and temperatures of up to 3,800 degrees Celsius.
The DEA, or Digital Image Acquisition (DIA), software consists of an onboard image-processing pipeline. It interfaces each camera head with Perseverance’s avionics, which are similar to those on Curiosity. DEA software uses low-voltage differential signaling to communicate with the rover’s cameras, while two flow-controlled serial links transmit commands to the camera heads. The rover receives image data using a 30-, 60-, or 120-Mb/s selectable aggregate throughput 6-bit parallel link.
The NASA-led project to send the first rover to Mars in early 2021 is known as the Mars 2020 rover. The rover will carry seven instruments, including a SuperCam instrument that fires a laser to analyze the rock and sand composition on Mars. Researchers can also look at the spectra of gases emitted by the laser pulse, which is crucial for the mission’s scientific objectives.
Aside from measuring atmospheric pressure, SuperCam will measure the speed of sound. Since the rover is mounted on a mast, its microphone is located on its top. The instrument was presented in a press conference online on March 10 by Shiv Sharma, co-investigator of the project. The results will be used to understand how sand transport works on Mars. The team hopes to use the data from SuperCam to determine how the rover’s sand transport works on Mars.
Change detection experiments
The Mars Perseverance rover is not the first spacecraft to conduct imaging experiment on the Red Planet. Change detection experiments have been underway for decades. Early theories of Mars’ climate predicted that contemporary winds would not carry sand, but the newest change detection images reveal a different story. Sand dunes are actively migrating across the Martian surface, a phenomenon that was thought impossible before robotic exploration. In fact, the Mars Perseverance rover has performed the best among these experiments.
A new paper published in Astrobiology reconsiders the Viking LR experiment. The new information provided by the Viking mission suggests that Martian microbes may exist. While some researchers believe that this finding is negative, others argue that it is positive evidence that life exists on Mars. As of this writing, scientists continue to debate the validity of the Viking results, citing conflicting results and contradictory findings. However, the Vikings did produce data that suggests microbial life exists on Mars.
The mission team has chosen the Perseverance rover to investigate the Jezero delta region in the Jezero crater. The mission team is very interested in the jezero crater delta, as it is a key attribute in the search for ancient Martian life. Perseverance has collected the first two pairs of rock samples from this area. The rover’s camera, called the SuperCam, took images of a few rocks in the area.
The Perseverance rover is looking for samples that it can bring back to Earth. Some of the promising samples are already sealed in titanium tubes on the chassis. Perseverance will likely create multiple depots in the future, which increases the chances of acquiring valuable samples. The mission team is continuing to work on the mission as planned. The rover’s next step is a long journey home.
Skinner Ridge rock
The Perseverance rover is helping scientists develop plans for future missions to Mars. The rover is exposing fabric samples to Mars’ harsh atmosphere, and it is also carrying out the MOXIE experiment, which converts Mars’ atmosphere into oxygen for use in life support systems and fuel. This mission has provided stunning images of Mars, and NASA’s self-driving computer allows the rover to drive at blazing speeds.
The Perseverance rover will use its arm to grind the surface of the Martian rock to determine its composition and internal structure. It will also carry instruments to measure mineral and chemical concentrations, called PIXL and SHERLOC. The rover has been named after two of its primary instruments, PIXL and SHERLOC. Perseverance has a turret equipped with two small X-ray beams. The instruments on the arm are able to detect large olivine and pyroxene crystals, which are both trace amounts of organic material.