Last updated on July 8, 2021
On February 18th at 12:55 PST, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory successfully landed its 5th Mars rover, Perseverance, in Jezero Crater. Although an astounding accomplishment for humanity, there is still a great deal of work to be done. However, the last four months have been quite eventful, completing many technological demonstrations and preparing for future scientific analysis.
Ingenuity Flight Test
Beginning on April 19th, the Ingenuity Helicopter completed its first flight demonstration, hovering at an altitude of 10 feet for about 40 seconds. This event marked humanity’s first successful Beginning on April 19th, the Ingenuity Helicopter completed its first flight demonstration, hovering at an altitude of 10 feet for about 40 seconds. This event marked humanity’s first successful attempt at controlling an aircraft on another planet. In fact, it even carried a piece of muslin fabric from the Wright Brothers’ plane from 1903, which revolutionized aviation on Earth.
Since then, it has made an additional 7 flights as of June 22nd, traveling as far as 440 feet away from Perseverance. Although these flights are just technology demonstrations as of now, they have exceeded expectations and provide hope for an exciting future where we send aircraft to other worlds such as the moon or even Titan, a moon in Saturn’s orbit which is the only place in our solar system besides earth to show evidence of surface liquids.
MOXIE Oxygen Experiment
Another one of the Perseverance’s technologies demonstrations was MOXIE, which successfully used Mars’ carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere to create oxygen. This science experiment could lead to many exciting technologies that could expedite Mars’ colonization. First, because the Martian atmosphere consists of mostly Carbon Dioxide, humans can’t breathe on the planet without a spacesuit. However, a method for creating oxygen could allow us to build infrastructure where humans could endure without a spacesuit.
In addition, oxygen is needed to make rocket propellant. One of the current barriers space exploration faces is the amount of fuel required for a round-trip. However, the MOXIE instrument could greatly reduce that number, as it could make rocket fuel while on the Martian surface. With less fuel required, other items could be brought in its place, such as a bigger payload or even additional crew members for future manned missions.
Although the Perseverance mission is still in its most early stages, it has already completed many exciting demonstrations. Though the main goal is to search for ancient microbial life, these tests are crucial in understanding what our current challenges regarding space exploration are and how we will use technology to drive humanity forward.