What’s next for the Mars Perseverance rover? Your questions answered

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Mission management at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory because the Perseverance Mars rover crew views the primary photos despatched again from the spacecraft

NASA/Invoice Ingalls

On 18 February, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars, lowered gently to the bottom by a flying . Now it’ll start its twin mission: choosing up and stashing samples of Mars mud and to be introduced again to Earth later, and trying to find indicators of historic life. It additionally carries with it a number of different experiments designed to check expertise that could possibly be helpful to future Mars exploration.

New Scientist‘s area reporter, Leah Crane, solutions all of your questions on what’s subsequent for Perseverance.


What occurs with the sky crane when it has safely landed Perseverance? In NASA’s animations we see it fly off, however the place to?

It away from the touchdown space in order that it doesn’t endanger Perseverance when it crashes down on Mars. It finally ends up smeared throughout the planet.

After the rover collects samples, will they be picked up a while within the distant future? Is there a option to ship them again?

NASA has a mission within the works to go choose up these samples afterward and them again! That mission is tentatively deliberate for 2026.

What can be thought of a profitable discovering for this mission?

Perseverance is just about sure to make every kind of fascinating discoveries – each rover we’ve landed on Mars does. However what could be most enjoyable could be a fossilized microbial mat or another indication that Mars as soon as hosted life.

How sure is it that there gained’t be Earth contamination on any samples? Is it comparatively simple to inform the distinction between earth contaminants and precise Mars life?

These pattern tubes are the cleanest issues we’ve ever despatched to Mars, a lot cleaner than absolutely anything on Earth, exactly as a result of it could possibly be exhausting to inform the distinction between Earth stuff and Mars stuff. Moreover, Perseverance carries 4 “witness tubes” that gained’t be used to choose up samples, however as controls for the experiment so we are able to have a good suggestion of what kind of contamination we’d have despatched. Telling precise Mars life from contamination can be essential when scientists are analysing the samples.

How properly outfitted is Perseverance to determine and analyse potential historic that isn’t “life as we all know it”? Is it solely in search of issues we’d recognise?

Humanity as an entire will not be all that properly outfitted to determine life that isn’t “as we all know it”, even when it’s not historic! It’s attainable Perseverance might recognise patterns that point out and totally different life, however that’s so troublesome that it’s unlikely.

What sort of mission would this spark if it discovered proof of historic life?

If Perseverance discovered proof of historic life on Mars, I feel we’d need the following mission to have the ability to dig deeper and ship again tons samples – possibly extra of a palaeontology rover than a geology one! And it will undoubtedly spark an instantaneous growth in Mars missions.

What’s one thing that might shock you if found in soil samples?

I might be most stunned if Perseverance discovered residing microbes, partially as a result of it’s not outfitted to search for them and partially as a result of such a discovering is extremely unlikely given the acute situations on the floor of Mars.

Did the Ingenuity helicopter land with Perseverance?

Sure, the helicopter is saved in Perseverance’s stomach so the rover can drop it off on the floor.

When will the helicopter take off, and what’s its meant analysis?

It would take a couple of month for engineers to run all of the assessments required for Ingenuity to take off and for its photo voltaic panels to cost it up. It’s a expertise demonstration, so it gained’t be taking any science measurements – but when it really works, future Mars choppers might do every kind of science they usually’ll be capable to get round a lot sooner than rovers.

How far will it be capable to fly?

Ingenuity is designed to fly as much as 50 metres in every 90-second flight, and it might make as much as 5 check flights.

What is that this mission testing with reference to oxygen manufacturing and storage for future missions?

Perseverance carries the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Useful resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), which is able to behave nearly like a tree, sucking in carbon dioxide from the Martian environment, splitting the molecules, and exhaling oxygen. Nevertheless it’s not testing storage, since we already know the way to do this – as an alternative it’ll merely vent the oxygen into the environment.

How come we’ve by no means despatched an astronaut to Mars?

The easy reply is that sending people into area is far more durable than sending robots. Sending robots is difficult – solely about 40 per cent of those we’ve despatched to Mars have landed safely. And it will get even more durable when you contemplate all the additional issues we’d must ship to maintain people , each in the course of the journey and as soon as they land on Mars.

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