A recent blog by Dr. Justin Maki, Imaging Scientist and the Deputy Principal Investigator on the Perseverance rover Mastcam-Z camera, provides a detailed account about the debris the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) system left scattered around the Martian surface while delivering the Perseverance rover to Jezero Crater. This blog highlights how much hardware goes into sending our brave, robotic explorers to the Red Planet while discussing the importance of imaging such debris.Continue reading “NASA Gives a Detailed Analysis of all the Landing Debris Perseverance Has Found on Mars”
The search for life—even ancient life—on Mars is trickier than we thought. In a recent study published in the journal Astrobiology, researchers have determined that NASA’s Mars Perseverance (Percy) Rover will have to dig two meters (6.6 feet) beneath the Martian surface in order to find traces of ancient life. This is because the surface of Mars is constantly bombarded with extreme levels of solar radiation that scientists hypothesize would quickly degrade small molecules such as amino acids. The reason for this extreme level of radiation is due to the absence of a magnetic field, which scientists believe was stripped away billions of years ago when the planet’s liquid outer core ceased to produce the dynamo that created the field.Continue reading “Mars Rovers Will Need to Dig Deeper If They Want to Find Evidence of Life”
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Like every solar-panel-powered vehicle on Mars, maintaining electrical power always becomes an issue at some point in the mission. Last week, mission controllers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory lost contact with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. While they were able to re-establish communications, which is done through the Perseverance rover, engineers know that keeping Ingenuity’s batteries charged is going to be increasingly difficult as the dark winter is on the way to Jezero Crater.Continue reading “Martian Dust is Starting to Darken Ingenuity’s Solar Panels”
On February 18, 2021, NASA’s Perseverance (Percy) Rover successfully landed in the dried-up lakebed known as Jezero Crater on Mars, beaming back images and video of its descent and landing to millions of space fans living on the planet that built and launched this incredible robotic explorer. With this landing came enormous excitement for a new era of robotic exploration of the Red Planet as we slowly continue to unlock the secrets of Mars and its ancient past, to include (hopefully) finding evidence of past life.Continue reading “Perseverance Begins the Next Phase of its Mission, Studying an Ancient River Bed on Mars”
What a year it’s been — Earth year, that is!
The dramatic touchdown on Mars for the Perseverance rover and the stowaway Ingenuity helicopter on February 18, 2021 was a bright moment in a tumultuous year here on Earth. And even though the pandemic meant that many people were watching the event from home – even some of the Mars rover team – NASA made sure to share the event as widely as possible.
Here’s a video highlight of that day, with pictures and video from both planets, and watching it brings smiles, goosebumps tears of joy. Of course, the incredible video we received of the landing from from the rover itself – especially the sky-crane lowering Perseverance to the planet’s surface — is nothing short of stunning.Continue reading “How Time Flies: Perseverance and Ingenuity Have Been on Mars for a Year”
When Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins returned from the Moon in the summer of 1969, they spent three weeks isolated in quarantine to make sure that they hadn’t brought back any microbial lifeforms from the Moon, which could prove harmful to Earth life. Later, once the Moon had been unequivocally proved to be a dead world, future Apollo missions were allowed to skip quarantine. Elsewhere in the solar system, however, NASA still has to take planetary biosecurity seriously, because life could be out there. If we bring it back to Earth, it could be a danger to us and our ecosystems. Conversely, microbial Earth life could invade a fragile alien ecosystem, destroying a newly discovered lifeform before we have the chance to study it. Imagine discovering life on Mars, only to realize that it was life we had brought there with us.Continue reading “We’re Constantly Battling Invasive Species Here on Earth. What Does That Teach us About Infecting Other Worlds With Earth Life?”
Every two years, Mars enters what is known as a “Solar Conjunction,” where its orbit takes it behind the Sun relative to Earth. During these periods, the hot plasma regularly expelled by the Sun’s corona can cause interference with radio signals transmitted between Earth and Mars. To avoid signal corruption and the unexpected behaviors that could result, NASA and other space agencies declare a moratorium on communications for two weeks.
What this means is that between Oct. 2nd and Oct. 16th, all of NASA’s Mars missions will experiencing what is known as a “commanding moratorium.” This will consist of NASA sending a series of simple commands to its missions in orbit, which will then be dispatched to landers and rovers on the surface. These simple tasks will keep all of the robotic Martian explorers busy until regular communications can be established.Continue reading “Communication With Mars is About to Become Impossible (for two Weeks)”
The Perseverance rover now has a new tool to help scientists and engineers figure out where the rover goes next. The new tool is the little rotorcraft that was tucked away in the rover’s belly, the Ingenuity helicopter. Ingenuity has now started doing aerial surveys to scout ahead for Perseverance.Continue reading “Thanks to Ingenuity’s Pictures, Perseverance Knows Where to Drive to Next”
Given all of the news surrounding the landing and first few months of operation of the Perseverance rover on Mars, it might be surprising that its actual science mission hasn’t even started yet. That changed on June 1st when the rover officially kicked off its first science mission by leaving its landing site.Continue reading “It’s Time for Perseverance to get to Work”
Perseverance has already made its mark on scientific history by taking the first audio recording ever on Mars. But the instrument with the microphone, known as the SuperCam, wasn’t done there. It has plenty of other science to do, and recently it started running through some more preliminary tests. One of those tests happened to involve blasting a rock with a laser – while taking an audio recording of it.Continue reading “Perseverance Begins its Science on Mars With a Laser zap”