Life on Mars? NASA’s new rover successfully lands on the red planet

NASA’s Perseverance has successfully landed on Mars after a long seven-month journey, to find evidence of life through rock samples.

After just over ten minutes of a nail-biting descent, the rover landed on the red planet just before 8 am AEST. The mission uses the rover and a small helicopter on one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet and is the most sophisticated rover NASA has sent.

The mission includes the use of instruments to analyse rock samples and look for ancient signs of life in a crater is said to have contained a lake about 3.9 billion years ago. Using the rover’s two-meter-long arm to drill down into the lake, Perseverance will search for areas that have previously been inaccessible, bringing back three or four dozen samples.

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

Previous missions, including Curiosity and Opportunity, suggested that the red planet may have been once considered a wet planet that potentially housed life billions of years ago. After drilling for rocks, the hardest part of the mission will be to bring the rocks home, which may take decades for Preserverence’s task to be completed.

Scientists say that if there is life on Mars, or ever was, evidence would be found from billions of years ago when water still flowed on the planet. This is why the mission includes drilling in the crater home of the lake billions of years back.

The rover is the biggest and most advanced NASA has sent out since the space missions began in 1970. Perseverance (Percy for short) is the ninth successful spacecraft to land on Mars. It is the first of many in a series of missions over the next decade to bring rocks back to Earth to analyse life forms.