Channel 1 Los Angeles
Florida 7/30/2020 Photos Courtesy NASA
NASA’s next mission to Mars — the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission — is targeted to launch from Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station no earlier than July 20, 2020. It will land in Jezero Crater on the Red Planet on Feb.
18, 2021. Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to Mars, with a name that embodies
NASA’s passion for taking on and overcoming challenges. It will search for signs of ancient microbial life,
characterize the planet’s geology and climate, collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment
samples for possible return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.
Perseverance will also ferry a separate technology experiment to the surface of Mars — a helicopter named
Ingenuity, the first aircraft to fly in a controlled way on another planet.
NASA’s first rover on Mars was modest: Sojourner, the
size of a microwave oven, demonstrated in 1997 that
a robot could rove on the Red Planet. NASA’s next
Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, were each the size
of a golf cart. After landing in 2004, they discovered
evidence that the planet once hosted running water
before becoming a frozen desert. The car-sized Curiosity rover landed in 2012. Curiosity discovered that its
landing site, Gale Crater, hosted a lake billions of years ago and an environment that could have supported
microbial life. Perseverance aims to take the next step, seeking, as a primary goal, to answer one of the key
questions of astrobiology: Are there potential signs of past microbial life, or biosignatures on Mars?
This demanding science goal requires a new suite of cutting-edge instruments to tackle the question from many
angles. The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals
(SHERLOC) instrument, which can detect organic matter, and the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry
(PIXL), which measures the composition of rocks and soil, will allow Perseverance to map organic matter,
chemical composition and texture together at a higher level of detail than any Mars rover has done before.
These instruments — two of the seven total onboard — will play a particularly important role in Perseverance’s
search for potential signs of life.