The Mars 2020 Mission searches for signs of past life while also testing the possibility of the planet sustaining future life. Learn more about the two exploration machines gathering all the new data about the Red Planet.
NASA Mars Rover Mission Details
The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover mission has four science objectives, NASA explained.
The rover is looking for habitability, identifying past environments capable of supporting microbial life. It is also seeking biosignatures, signs of possible past microbial life in these habitable environments. The rovers is looking for special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time.
The rover needs to collect those core rock and "soil" samples and store them on the Martian surface, hopefully bringing them back to Earth when they return. Lastly, it is preparing for humans. The rover tests oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.
Check out this patch of rock I found: looks kind of like garden pavers, and is probably exposed bedrock. Material like this, from the early days of this ancient lakebed, can help capture what that lake was like. Spending a few days investigating…https://t.co/p9A2vJFjIV pic.twitter.com/0bc8lPiQLS— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) July 14, 2021
NASA said even if Perseverance does not discover any signs of past life, it does pave the way for possible human life on the Red Planet in the future.
Mars was launched on July 30, 2020, 4:50 a.m. PDT, and it landed on the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, 12:55 p.m. PST. The mission should last at least one Mars year, which is about 687 Earth days.
While Perseverance's task is to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) to return to Eath, Ingenuity's mission is to test the capabilities of flight of rotorcrafts in space.
Ingenuity is the solar-powered rotorcraft that was deployed from the Rover's belly on April 3, 2021. The little helicopter's mission was to conduct a 30-day flight campaign designed to show that powered, controlled flight is possible in mars' thin air.
Ingenuity performed five flights and after successfully completing the campaign, it proceeded to go on an extended mission. This time, its task is to showcase the scouting potential of the rotorcraft on Mars.
Ingenuity's new mission is just as vital as the first, displaying just how important the ability to fly the helicopter out into terrain the rover cannot access or traverse and bring back scientific data.
NASA Mars Rover and Helicopter Tracker
NASA's "Where is Perseverance?" Map allows the public to track where the Red Planet rover and helicopter are.
The map is composed of two layers, NASA explained. A grayscale of the Jezero Crater map, and a true-color base map that make up the rendered tracker available on the website.
Each dot on the map represents the end point of a drive and is labeled with the day, or sol on Mars, that the Rover stopped. Hovering over the lines, it tells you the distance Perseverance covered from one point to the other.
To get an on-the-ground look of Mars, Perseverance's imaging system was able to capture breathtaking images of the Red Planet, as well as audio. This resulted in a 360-degree panoramic view of what Perseverance saw, too.
The Mastcam-Z is mounted on the rover mast at the eye level of a 6.5-foot-tall person, NASA said. It can gather images around in a full 360-degree circle and a full 180 degrees from straight down to straight up. It "sees" in color and 3D or stereo.
All images from the Mars exploration program are also available to download from their website.