NASA's Mars 2020 mission is about to take place at the Jezero Crater and centers around the Perseverance rover. The Perseverance is nearly identical to the Curiosity rover except for redesigned wheels reusing Curiosity's design. It makes sense because Curiosity is an engineering marvel and saves NASA a lot of money in development costs.

While it is often shared on news that the Mars rover launch is aimed at finding ancient life in the Red Planet, it actually has other objectives.

The Mars 2020 launch is just one part of NASA's overarching Mars exploration program. The program has four key science goals in which Perseverance will play a significant role in their achievement.

Below are some points raised by Youtube Channel NeoScribe with over 100,000 subscribers as of this writing.

Mission to Mars: Finding Ancient Life

The first goal is to determine whether life ever existed on the planet, and this is why the Jezero crater was chosen to be the site. The crater may have contained a massive 800-foot lake connected to rivers.

To help achieve this goal, the Perseverance is equipped with three amazing instruments - the planetary instrument for x-ray little chemistry or PIXL, the scanning habitable environments with Ramanand luminescence for organics and chemicals or Sherloc.

The super cam PIXL is an x-ray spectrometer that allows Perseverance to detect signs of biofilm made by microbes that may have lived on the planet long ago when the climate was warmer. Typical examples of biofilm here on Earth include pond scum and even the plaque in your mouth.

The PIXL is of a fascinating feat of Engineering at just 10 pounds. It is 50 times lighter than a typical lab spectrometer used for the same purpose.

 Now Sherloc also has a spectrometer, but it uses an ultraviolet laser to determine the chemical makeup of surfaces. There are more differences, but the point is that both instruments are searching for signs of ancient microbes.

And last but not least is the super cam, which examines rocks and soils with the camera laser and spectrometer to seek organic compounds. They can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than seven meters now.

READ ALSO: NASA's Perseverance Has New-Pattern Wheels You May Not Notice Before

Mars Climate

The second goal is to characterize the climate of Mars. If we are going to start a colony on Mars, we're going to need as much information about the planet as possible.

Looking back at the Jamestown settlers in the 1600s, they did not expect the harsh winters and summers that they had to endure and that the conditions of the soil made it difficult to farm on. So learning everything that we can about Mars, including the climate, is crucial.

The rover is like a detective in the sense that it will perform astrobiological investigations using the Mars environmental dynamics analyzer or MEDA. MEDA will continuously measure the characteristics of the Martian atmosphere, including the direction in wind speed temperature and humidity, and also measures the amount and size of dust particles.

Now, this might not be the first thing you think about, but Mars colonists in the future will constantly have to deal with dust storms, which can be massive dust storms on Mars. It can block out the Sun for weeks, and about every seven to ten years, there are enormous dust storms that cover the entire planet. The data collected from meadow will help predict weather conditions that the first astronauts will face

Geology of Mars

The third goal is to characterize the geology of Mars by studying the rock record discovering the age of rocks on Mars. It will help determine the sequence of events of the planet's history. The rover will specifically look for evidence of rocks that formed in water that possibly preserved evidence of organics. It will do this using the Radar Imager for the Mars subsurface experiment or RIMFAX. RIMFAX uses radar waves to uncover what lies beneath the Martian surface capable of detecting ice or salty brine.

 By discovering what different fluids are buried beneath the surface, we'll be able to learn so much about the planet's past.

Additionally, the rover will use its percussive coring drill to collect rock samples and place them in sealed tubes. The cool thing is that these samples will eventually be placed on the planet's surface and possibly be collected on the future Mars mission to be returned to Earth for future study. Learning the geology of Mars is foundational knowledge that is important for future colonists.

READ ALSO: NASA Prepares Perseverance Mars Rover for Launch for its 2020 Mission to Discover Ancient Martian Life

Human Mars Exploration

Lastly, the fourth goal of the Mars 2020 mission is to prepare for human exploration. The Perseverance has four sub-objectives for this goal, but we are going to zero in on the Mars Oxygen In-situ Resource Utilization Experiment or Moxie.

Moxie is an experiment that aims to demonstrate the ability to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. This is crucial for two reasons. As astronauts and colonists need oxygen to breathe and it can also be used as a propellant for return trips back to Earth, Mars actually contains plenty of oxygen in the carbon dioxide molecules, which makes up over 95% of its atmosphere. Moxie takes the Mars atmosphere and heats it up to eight hundred degrees Celsius, which allows the oxygen atoms to separate from the carbon atoms.

 If this experiment is successful, NASA may send a dedicated mission to produce oxygen on Mars, which would lay the groundwork for human missions and a colony. So all of the instruments on the Perseverance are astonishing in their own right, but to top it off, the rover is also equipped with the helicopter.

 Mars' atmosphere has less than 1% the density than the Earth, so the helicopter is a technology demonstration test that aims to prove that controlled flight is possible.

 The helicopter runs on lithium-ion batteries that provide enough energy for 192nd flight per charge with the range of 300 meters. If successful future Mars rover missions may be equipped with drones that can scan surrounding areas for exciting objects and places for the rover to explore.

 NASA has a long session of successful Mars rover missions going back twenty-three years. Two of NASA's Rovers, the opportunity, and Curiosity are among the most significant missions in the history of unmanned space exploration.

Hopefully, the Perseverance continues this succession, and hopefully, through its discoveries and experiments it paves the way for the human missions to come.

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