After traveling nearly 300 million miles for the last 6 months, NASA’s rover ‘Perseverance’ has landed safely on Mars. Shortly after its arrival on the Red Planet last month, it sent back its first images of the Martian atmosphere and landing site, setting off imaginations all over the country. So what does this mission mean in terms of exploring and learning about our solar system?
Listen: Astrophyicist Edward Cackett discusses the many firsts that NASA’s Perseverance Rover is setting out to accomplish.
Edward Cackett is a Wayne State University astrophysicist. He explains that the arrival of the rover on the surface of Mars is reason to celebrate in itself. “There’s a small launch window of about one month every 24 months,” explains Cackett, who says that this means that NASA scientists had to prepare everything during the pandemic summer of 2020. As far as what the hope is for what the rover will uncover, Cackett says there are “a whole of firsts” in the goals of this mission. Some of the goals of the Perseverance mission include sending out a helicopter (that was sent with the rover) to test whether it’s possible for an aircraft to fly in the Martian atmosphere, collecting rock samples and sealing them in test tubes tubes that a future mission will be able to pick up and bring back to earth and an experiment that will test whether it’s possible to produce oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere, which is mostly CO2.
On the topic of how far we are from sending a person to Mars, Cackett points to the Artemis program, which is to get humans back on the moon in preparation for eventually getting humans to Mars. Cackett says that the Artemis program is planning to have humans on the moon for a continued amount of time to develop a site to test advancements that would allow humans to get to Mars. Cackett says this initiative is one of the very few things that was supported by former President Donald Trump and continues to receive support under the Biden administration.
I’m part of a proud lineage of robotic explorers, carrying the torch forward on Mars. This plaque I carry pays tribute to those who’ve gone before me, and to new possibilities ahead. #CountdownToMars https://t.co/P1VdyrIW2O pic.twitter.com/RL2hSWS0oL— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 26, 2021