Greetings! I don’t know about you, but I am super jazzed about our current space program and all that we can learn from it.
Today I want to introduce you to our Mars Rovers; Curiosity and Perseverance, both built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech for NASA. (https://magazine.caltech.edu/post/mars-2020-evolution-of-a-rover) They feature similar designs, but differing roles in what they will explore on Mars. Curiosity was intended to study environments where we hoped ancient microbes might have existed. Perseverance will seek out any direct sign of this ancient life and bring any samples she may find back to earth when her tenure is complete.
Curiosity was quite large, almost the size of an automobile. (https://starlust.org/how-many-rovers-are-on-mars/) Curiosity was supposed to be operational for one complete Martian year which is 687 Earth days. However, she was still working hard thru January of 2021. Curiosity found that there was an abundance of methane gas on Mars and that the atmosphere has been shrinking over time, but could not determine why. While explorng she discovered that Yellowknife Lake could potentially host life that could flourish. She even managed to survive and work through a massive dust storm that overtook the entire planet.
Perseverance is slated to take over where Curiosity left off. (https://everydayastronaut.com/perseverance-vs-curiosity/) Curiosity landed on Mars in August of 2012 with her 12 camera’s, onboard laboratory, chemical analyzer, and drill has provided a tremendous amount of important data from her rock samples since her landing there. For instance, she has determined that there are enough plentiful elements to support a microbial type of life; Sulphur, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and phosphorus. There is also some evidence t there has been liquid water there and Curiosity has measured the amount of radiation determining it is too much for humans without proper shielding. This means we can hopefully plan to send a manned mission there in the not too distant future.
Perseverance took off aboard an Atlas V rocket landed on Mars at the Jezero Crater in February of 2021. (https://everydayastronaut.com/perseverance-vs-curiosity/) Jezero is Balkan for lake. (see below photo) We hope she might find signs of life past or present during her time on Mars. Scientist’s believe that this crater was once filled with water and maybe even some forms of life. She houses 23 very specific mostly color cameras, a helicopter drone, larger instruments, enhanced brain, five times the speed of Curiosity which allows her to cover more ground, and two microphones that will provide us with even more important data.
NASA has launched five prior rovers to Mars; Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and now Perseverance. (https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/mars-rovers/en/#:~:text=What%20are%20the%20Mars%20rovers,Opportunity%2C%20Curiosity%2C%20and%20Perseverance.) Since the first rover landed on Mars we have learned that Mars has a gravity that is similar to that of our Earth. (https://starlust.org/how-many-rovers-are-on-mars/) Actually, it is 38% of the gravity we experience on Earth, but that is possible for humans to adapt to. Mars also has a thin protective atmosphere. Communication between the two planets takes between four and twenty minutes.
There has also been one special lander to go to Mars, InSight. (https://starlust.org/how-many-rovers-are-on-mars/) InSight was sent to be a Martian doctor of sorts. She was there to perform a physical. Launched in May of 2018 she landed in November 2018. She inspected the core, crust, and mantle of Mars and also was able to effectively detect and tectonic activity or “marsquakes” and meteor impacts.
InSight was intended to help us understand how solar systems evolved or formed by assessing their seismic activity and temperatures. (https://starlust.org/how-many-rovers-are-on-mars/) During her time on Mars we found there were approximately 450 marsquakes, which was milder and more frequent than previously believed to be the case.
China also sent a rover to Mars, Zhurong, in May of 2021. (https://starlust.org/how-many-rovers-are-on-mars/) Her mission is to study the composition of Mars surface., magnetic field, and other geological issues.
I hope you enjoyed reading and learning about the various missions to Mars and will fall in love with the space program as I have. Until the next time.