On Thursday, a NASA rover, symbolically called Perseverance, landed on Mars surface after months of its dangerous journey.
Since July, the rover has traveled more than 300 miles, and it only took it 11 and a half minutes for a touchdown signal to reach planet Earth.
Perseverance was described as the most advanced rover to arrive on Mars that succeeded its nine less developed predecessors from the U.S.
The rover will bring rock samples to Earth
NASA’s spacecraft landed on Jezero Crater, a part of the surface of Mars that reportedly used to be a river delta covered with cliffs, pits, and rock fields.
NASA researchers plan to take rock samples from the crater to inspect whether they can find signs of past microscopic life on Mars.
The samples are intended to be stored until another spacecraft arrives to bring them back to Earth. The idea is to have these samples on Earth in 2031 at the earliest.
The significance of this mission is clear if we take into account how many times space vehicles were destroyed before entering the atmosphere of Mars.
Just in three months in 1999, two American vehicles crashed before landing on Mars.
What makes the atmosphere of Mars particularly inhospitable to all sorts of spacecraft is that 95 percent of it presents carbon dioxide.
Because of negative past experiences, NASA researchers had to be especially careful this time.
The most complex space mission in the history
Bad atmospheric conditions are one of the reasons why part of this mission would be to try to convert atmospheric molecules of carbon dioxide into oxygen.
If this experiment succeeds, it may help create breathable air that will significantly avail future astronauts in their arrival and subsequent exploration of Mars.
NASA will not be alone in trying to obtain rock samples for the future exploration of Mars.
European Space Agency (ESA) joined NASA to complete the mission expected to cost the U.S. $3 billion.
David Parker, who serves as head of human and robotic exploration at ESA, characterized the operation as the most special, startling, and complex space mission ever taken.
Other countries opted to conduct similar campaigns without any particular collaboration with NASA.
Along with NASA’s campaign, the missions from China and the United Arab Emirates started their quest for Mars exploration in July.
The rovers from these countries successfully entered the orbit of Mars last week.
Unlike Perseverance, UAE’s probe, dubbed Hope, does not plan to touch the surface of the red planet. On the other hand, Chinese spacecraft Tianwen-1 is expected to land by May or June, and it remains to be seen whether months of orbiting will help it find good landing sites.