15 months after landing on Mars… Search for traces of living things while running through barren land : Dong-A Science

US Perseverance Exploration Begins

Perseverance arrived on the outskirts of the delta terrain last April. Provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

The US Mars rover (mobile robot) ‘Perseverance’, which landed on Mars in February last year, started full-scale exploration of life. It was only about 15 months after landing on Mars that it was able to carry out its original mission.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said on the 28th of last month that Perseverance had landed in the ‘Hawkville Gap’ area of ​​Yejero Crater. This area is presumed to be a delta topography formed 3.9 billion years ago when rivers flowed and sediments were accumulated. Sediments are rich in organic substances such as carbonates necessary for life. Scientists believe it is likely that the remains of ancient life in the Hawkville Gap.

Perseverance, which means “endurance” in English, is NASA’s ninth Mars lander and fifth Mars rover. With a length of 3m and a weight of 1026kg, it is the size of a compact car. It runs on 6 wheels and is loaded with 7 scientific equipment and 23 cameras. Perseverance’s main mission is to find traces of life on Mars for 687 days, which is a year on Mars.

Perseverance’s key mission was delayed due to an unexpected discovery. Igneous rock was unexpectedly found on the surface of the landing site, so we focused on igneous rock analysis and preparation for long-distance travel for three months after landing. Igneous rocks are easy to date, based on the radioactive decay of chemical elements.

After analyzing the igneous rock, Perseverance began moving to the Hawkville Gap, about 2 km from the landing site. She arrived on the outskirts of the delta terrain last April, avoiding obstacles at a speed of 2.5 meters per minute. Mudstone, a rock that has been hardened by the accumulation of fine mud, was discovered here. Mudstones are usually found in slow flowing rivers and lakes. They also found sandstones that form in fast-flowing rivers. Katy Morgan, a researcher at NASA’s Perseverance Project, said, “These rocks are important research data that can infer the prosperity of life.”

The area where perseverance arrived is the lowest point in the delta terrain. As it is the oldest sedimentary layer formed, it is considered a suitable place for finding traces of ancient life forms. Perseverance recently started digging with a 5cm diameter circular plate attached to its body. Preliminary work to facilitate rock extraction and analysis.

The delta exploration is expected to last two to three months. As the expedition continues, NASA scientists will review the next expedition location. Perseverance contains 43 specimen containers the size of chalk, about 5 cm in length. In September, the samples collected so far will be evaluated to see if they have scientific value enough to return them to Earth. NASA plans to bring only 30 specimens to Earth due to time and cost concerns.

The timing of sample collection is undecided. Originally, NASA had planned to send a probe to Mars in 2026 to retrieve samples in 2028 and return to Earth in 2031, but the schedule was changed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. NASA has a new plan. Specimen containers can be stored on Mars for decades.

It has been confirmed that the persistence has moved about 11 km so far. As I moved away from the obstacles, the distance increased than I expected. In March and April, it set a record as the rover that traveled the most distances on an extraterrestrial planet by driving about 5 km. It is expected that they will continue to explore ancient life forms that are estimated to remain on Mars by moving about 15 km further in 687 days, which is equivalent to a year, from Mars.