NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the red planet on Thursday and immediately got to work, beaming images from the surface directly back to Earth.
After a seven-month flight, the rover will begin its search for previous life on Mars. Its location, Jezero Crater, was targeted due to a high likelihood of past life. It is believed that Jezero Crater contained rivers of liquid water in Mars’ ancient past. Perseverance will be tasked with examining rocks that are up to 3.6 billion years old.
Here is how you can track the progress of the rover:
- NASA will post pictures taken from the rover on its website
- You can track the location of the rover, and see how far it has gone each day on NASA’s website
- The rover has its own Twitter account, which will also post pictures and updates from the red planet
Part of the rover’s mission is to take a sample of Martian soil and return it to Earth someday. While samples of the Moon have been returned to Earth, a sample of Mars has never been returned.
Returning a sample to Earth could help scientists better determine if life once existed on the red planet.
“Because of today’s exciting events, the first pristine samples from carefully documented locations on another planet are another step closer to being returned to Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA. “Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth.”
The hope is to learn more about Mars to better understand what resources are available for a potential manned mission to the red planet.
“Landing on Mars is always an incredibly difficult task and we are proud to continue building on our past success,” said Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Michael Watkins. “But, while Perseverance advances that success, this rover is also blazing its own path and daring new challenges in the surface mission. We built the rover not just to land but to find and collect the best scientific samples for return to Earth, and its incredibly complex sampling system and autonomy not only enable that mission, they set the stage for future robotic and crewed missions.”
While the Perseverance rover has a one-year mission, it's possible the mission could be extended. Curiosity, which landed in 2012 and was expected to have a two-year mission, remains operational.