NASA Launching an Alien-Hunting Mars Rover

Watch your ass, Darth Vader!

source: Business Insider

  • NASA is about to send its next rover to Mars: a nuclear-powered robot called Perseverance.
  • Perseverance is expected to record the first high-quality video and audio of Mars, drill rock samples that could contain signs of alien life, and deploy the first interplanetary helicopter.

NASA is gearing up to launch its next Mars rover: an SUV-sized, nuclear-powered robot decked out in cutting-edge equipment.

mars rover perseverance rocket atlas v launch
NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover waits to be lifted onto its Atlas V launch vehicle in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 7, 2020. 

Perseverance, the fifth rover the US has sent to Mars, the spacecraft is set to complete tasks that the previous robots could only dream of. The $2.4 billion robot is designed to collect unprecedented video and audio, drill samples of Martian rock and soil for later return to Earth, search for chemical remnants of ancient microbial life, and lay the groundwork for NASA to send astronauts to the red planet.

The rover is scheduled to launch at 7:50 a.m. ET on July 30, atop an Atlas V rocket.

Its seven-month, 314-million-mile  (505-million-kilometer) journey to Mars is slated to end in the Jezero Crater — one of the largest impact craters on Mars. A giant jetpack is built in to lower Perseverance onto the site, where some of the planet’s oldest rock is laid bare.

Here’s how the mission will work. 

Martian rock samples could contain evidence of alien lifemars rover sample return mission perseverance

An illustration of NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover using its drill to core a rock sample on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance’s mission calls for it to mine Jezero Crater’s ancient rock for chemical signatures of ancient alien life. Rocks that formed in water, for example, could have preserved the remains of chemicals that only life can create. Such rocks may be plentiful in the Jezero Crater exposed layers.

A special arm of the robot is designed to drill cores from those rocks and cache them on the planet’s surface.

mars perseverance rover sample return collection cache
An illustration shows how the Perseverance rover will store rock and soil samples in sealed tubes on Mars’s surface for future missions to retrieve. 

“Samples from Mars have the potential to profoundly change our understanding of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system.”

Lori Glaze
Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division

NASA plans to launch another rover to retrieve those samples in 2026. The fetch rover would collect the tubes and carry them to a rocket, which would then launch them into Mars’s orbit. There, a spacecraft circling the planet would catch the samples and carry them back to Earth.

“If it sounds complicated — it is.”

Lori Glaze
Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division

But this rover has more immediate, straightforward goals, too.

NASA is launching an alien-hunting Mars rover. After Perseverance lands, the first interplanetary helicopter should emerge from its belly.

Calamity Jane