Mission to Mars: Rovers Perseverance and Curiosity Study the Red Planet

An illustration of Mars Rover Perseverance landing safely on the red planet. 

By Alvin Guillen - Library Assistant III |Springville Road Regional Library 

Today, Friday, August 6, marks the ninth anniversary of exploration by NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars.

The car-sized robot launched from NASA's Jet Propulsion laboratory in California November 2011 and landed inside Mars' Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. Curiosity has played a major role in helping scientists understand the habitat of Mars and how it has evolved. 

Space exploration by NASA on Mars captivated the nation earlier this year when NASA'S Perseverance rover landed on the red planet.

When I first began writing this blog in February, NASA’s Perseverance rover had been on the planet Mars for 5 days, 4 hours, and 45 minutes. It successfully landed on the planet on Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 3:55 p.m. EST.

Early today, NASA's official Perseverance Twitter account released photos after the rover drilled its first ever hole on Mars surface. The tweet read: "My first drill hole on Mars. Collecting and storing rock samples is a big and complex task, and this is a huge step."

Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet. It has been collecting carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for future return to Earth, search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.

Perseverance carried several cutting-edge technologies to the surface of Mars -- including a helicopter named Ingenuity, the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet. [As a side note, NASA held a essay writing competition in order to name this Mars helicopter, and the winning name “Ingenuity” was submitted by a junior at Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport, Vaneeza Rupani. Everything, it seems, has an Alabama connection.] 

7 things to know about the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission: 

* Perseverance is searching for signs of ancient life. Fueled by previous missions to Mars that discovered evidence that the planet once hosted running water before becoming a frozen dessert, Perseverance aims to take the next step in answering the question: Are there signs of past microbial life on Mars?  

* The rover landed in a place with a high potential for finding these signs of past microbial life.

* Perseverance is also collecting important data about Mars’ geology and climate. 

 * The Perseverance rover embodies the NASA spirit of overcoming challenges. Getting the spacecraft to the launch pad during a pandemic, searching for signs of ancient life, collecting samples, and proving new technologies are no easy feats. The team hopes to inspire the entire world to forge new paths and make discoveries on which the next generation can build. 

* Perseverance is the first leg of a round trip to Mars. Perseverance is the first rover to bring a sample catching system to Mars that will package promising samples for return to Earth by a future mission.

* Perseverance carries instruments and technology that will help pave the way for future human missions to the Moon and Mars. 

* You will get to ride along. The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission carries more cameras than any other interplanetary mission in history, with 19 cameras on the rover and 4 on other parts of the spacecraft involved in entry, descent and landing.

 If all goes well, the public will be able to experience in high-definition what it’s like to land on Mars.

 You can follow Perseverance’s adventure on social media via @NASAPersevere and @NASAMars on Twitter, Facebook, and the hashtag #CountdownToMars. 

 Bibliography NASA. “NASA Invites Public to Share Thrill of Mars Perseverance Rover Landing.” For details on how to follow the journey, click on Jet Propulsion Laboratory 2021link  https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasa-invites-public-to-share-thrill-of-mars-perseverance-rover-landing 

Mars Rover Curiosity in December 2015 photo on Mars.