NASA's Perseverance rover will scour Mars for signs of life

  • Tuesday 14, July 2020 07:53 AM
Sharjah24 – AFP: NASA's most advanced Mars rover, Perseverance, launches from Earth on July 30, on a mission to seek out signs of ancient microbial life on what was once a river delta three-and-a-half billion years ago.
The interplanetary voyage will last six months.

Should the SUV-sized vehicle touch down unscathed, it will start collecting and storing rock and soil samples, to be retrieved by a future mission and brought back to Earth in 2031.

Perseverance follows in the tire tracks of four rovers before it, all American, which first launched in the late 1990s.

Together with satellite and surface probes, they have transformed our understanding of Mars, showing that the Red Planet wasn't always a cold and barren place.

Instead, it had the ingredients for life as we know it: water, organic compounds and a favorable climate.

Scientists will examine the samples obtained by Perseverance to look for fossilized bacteria and other microbes to try to confirm if aliens did once live on our neighboring planet.

NASA has been teleworking for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the launch calendar for this $2.7 billion mission hasn't been affected.

Earth and Mars are on the same side of the Sun every 26 months, a window that can't be missed.

The United States is the only country on the planet to have successfully landed robots on Mars: four landers, which aren't mobile, and the rovers Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.

Of the rovers, only Curiosity is still active, with the others left on the surface after their machinery failed or contact was lost.

The first two landers, Viking 1 and 2, both looked for signs of life as far back as 1976, but haphazardly.

By studying the soil, analyzing the molecular composition of rocks, and carrying out satellite observations, geologists and astrobiologists gradually understood where water had flowed, and what areas could have been conducive to life.