Perseverance’s Mission: Search for Ancient Life in Martian Rocks
Feb. 17 , 2021 (EIRNS)—Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory report that the agency’s newest lander is ready to start its mission on the red planet, on Thursday, Feb. 18. It is scheduled to land at 3:55 p.m. EST at the Jezero Crater. But first, it must descend safely through the Mars atmosphere using a complex series of techniques, which must all work with perfect timing. The process has been dubbed the “seven minutes of terror” to reflect a somewhat exaggerated description of the state of mind of the managers, scientists, and engineers. Mars is too far away for humans to intervene in the landing sequence.
And the earthlings will only know whether Perseverance arrived intact 11 minutes and 22 seconds after the fact, due to the distance between the two planets. But if everything goes according to plan, the operating fleet of American and European Mars orbiters should be able to take real-time photographs of the descent and landing and relay them to Earth, later in the day.
The main mission of Perseverance is to search for evidence of ancient life in Martian rocks. Ever since there has been definitive evidence that there was once liquid water on Mars, the search for at least past life there has become an organizing principle for NASA’s missions.