An intrepid NASA rover is bearing down on Mars for an epic touchdown on Thursday (Feb. 18) and a brand new Nationwide Geographic documentary will allow you to share within the pleasure of the mission, which goals to hunt indicators of historical life and maybe assist return samples to Earth sooner or later.
The NASA Perseverance rover will endure a brand new “seven minutes of terror” sequence Thursday (Feb. 18) to focus on the appropriate spot on the Purple Planet’s floor in Jezero Crater and contact down inside driving distance of a former river delta that will host stays of Martian microbes. The rover will cache probably the most promising samples to kick off a sample-return mission to Earth later within the decade.
It wasn’t a straightforward journey to get even this far, as the brand new Nationwide Geographic present “Constructed for Mars: The Perseverance Rover” remembers. (The present will premiere at eight p.m. EST or 7 p.m. CST on Thursday; test native listings for extra particulars in your time zone or nation.)
You can watch the Mars landing live here and on Area.com’s homepage, courtesy of NASA, starting at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT). The touchdown is anticipated at three:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT).
Associated: How to watch NASA’s Perseverance rover land on Mars
Perseverance rover’s Mars touchdown: Everything you need to know
E-book of Mars: $22.99 at Magazines Direct
Inside 148 pages, discover the mysteries of Mars. With the most recent era of rovers, landers and orbiters heading to the Purple Planet, we’re discovering much more of this world’s secrets and techniques than ever earlier than. Discover out about its panorama and formation, uncover the reality about water on Mars and the seek for life, and discover the likelihood that the fourth rock from the solar could someday be our subsequent residence.View Deal
The rover’s launch in July 2020 unexpectedly took place in the middle of a global pandemic that erupted months earlier than, requiring bodily distancing by no means earlier than wanted throughout the period of house exploration. The present, Nationwide Geographic Channel mentioned in a press release, “shines a highlight on the important however little-known position of the flight technicians — the mechanics, machinists, and different hands-on employees who’re entrusted with the essential job of turning the scientists’ targets and the engineers’ designs into actuality, with one-of-a-kind constructed for Mars.”
NASA additionally introduced a few of these behind-the-scenes voices to the fore in interviews this month. Amongst these was NASA’s deputy venture scientist for the Perseverance mission, Ken Williford, who told Space.com where Perseverance’s mission fits into future sample-return plans.
“Mars 2020 is the primary a part of what could be a multi-mission sample-return marketing campaign,” Williford mentioned, utilizing the Perseverance mission’s unique designation. “Our job is to pick and acquire the very best samples in our exploration space, after which place them safely on the floor of Mars. After which some follow-on missions that would launch as early as 2026 could be required to go and choose up our samples, get them into Mars’ orbit, after which … fly them again to Earth.”
Earth is an ideal location to check Mars rocks. On missions to the Martian floor, the logistics of spaceflight constrain how a lot scientific gear engineers can ship to the floor of the Purple Planet. However pattern return could be a troublesome mission that additionally requires extra procedures to guard us from any potential Martian microbes.
However Williford mentioned any proof of Martian life could be helpful to place Earth’s life in context. “We’ve an incredible fossil file of life on Earth that extends all the best way again to about three.5 billion years in the past,” he mentioned. At the moment, organisms referred to as stromatolites constructed microbial mats which have fossilized. “They’re these wrinkly layered buildings which might be preserved within the rocks.”
That mentioned, we’d should be completely positive that any proof of Martian life can’t be defined by different processes not associated to life, Williford cautioned. “We’d require notably extraordinary proof. [But] we’re fairly assured that … we may observe one thing like this, which might actually, completely have us leaping up and down with pleasure,” he mentioned.
When Martian samples arrive on Earth, NASA and its companions will take an abundance of precautions to guard humanity from potential contamination, simply because the company did when it first gathered rocks from the moon. How this may occur remains to be an ongoing dialog, lead planetary protection engineer Moogega Cooper told Space.com, however we all know the big-picture purpose.
“I like to equate it to going to a nationwide park the place there’s the Depart No Hint coverage, proper?” Cooper mentioned of a rover like Perseverance alighting on the Martian floor. “After we go and discover completely different planets, together with Mars, we wish to ensure that we’re not bringing any microbial hitchhikers with us that will contaminate the surface of Mars or could have an effect on our science. After which the second half is, finally we hope to deliver the samples again. So we wish to ensure that we shield our personal Earth’s biosphere from any inadvertent contamination, too.”
A part of the dialogue about returning samples will contain a variety of checkpoint alongside the journey to Earth, Cooper mentioned. “There are going to be quite a lot of checkpoints, and if it does not meet that security checkpoint, it isn’t coming again,” she mentioned. “So no less than, though the conversations are ongoing, we may all be assured that everybody’s attempting to get this performed in one of the best ways attainable, within the most secure manner attainable.”
Visit Space.com Thursday for full protection of the Perseverance Mars rover’s touchdown on the Purple Planet.
Observe Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.