Over the years, we have had several attempts at trying to understand this red ball of dust better than our ancestors did. Although not the closest planet to Earth, Mars stays the closest to Earth the longest as compared to Venus who only briefly swings by to claim the title of the closest planet. From space telescopes to peek at Mars to satellite missions that orbit the planet, we have had several predecessors to the rovers that have now become permanent residents of Mars.
NASA has so far sent 4 rovers that have successfully landed and explored the surface and terrain of Mars. Starting with Sojourner in 97, then came Spirit & Opportunity in 2004, and finally Curiosity that landed in August 2012. Each of these rovers had its own purpose and were equipped with the tools to investigate and report back information that would help scientists identify whether Mars could at some point host life.
Two years since the world bid a tearful farewell to Opportunity in Feb 2019, after multiple failed attempts to wake up the rover, NASA is all set to land the next rover Perseverance in Feb 2021. Building upon the previous research conducted so far, Perseverance is going to investigate signs of past or present life on the planet. Looking at a top speed of just 0.09 mph, you may think that this rover will take a few years to cover any ground on the planet, but the key is in the payload of this rover. Perseverance carries the first-ever Mars Helicopter named Ingenuity.
Ingenuity is equipped with two carbon fiber rotors that will spin in opposite directions at speeds of around 2400 rpm. While most helicopters on Earth operate in a 450 – 500 rpm range, the additional speed is needed for Ingenuity since the air in Mars is too thin. In the teaser trailer from Jet Propulsion Lab, Ingenuity is expected to take aerial photos of the Martian terrain and change the way we imagine exploring outer space objects.
The most popular theory for the Mars exploration frenzy is that this planet may one day support human life in transit from Earth to other planets, making it the first outer space transit destination for humans. Whatever the end goal, we all wish Persistence and Ingenuity a safe landing on Mars on the 18th of February. We will for sure be watching and rooting for science and perseverance!
Fount of wisdom, insufferable know it all, make it go away are just some of the phrases used to define Melwyn. When he is not at his Consulting job, he spends his time reading about technology and current affairs.