For several years now, the world has been observing the history of the creation of the rover with the unusual name “Perseverance”. The fact is that the device must supplement the data obtained earlier with the help of other rovers, but for this Perseverance, difficulties will have to be overcome due to limitations of the scientific equipment installed on the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers. However, this NASA mission differs from the previous ones not only by its name – the greatest interest today is the golden box “MOXIE” (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment), safely hidden inside the case, with the help of which Persistence will try to convert a small amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide of Mars into pure, breathable oxygen. I agree this will be a truly unique mission. Perseverance will go to the Red Planet on July 17 this year.
Is there life on Mars?
NASA experts asked schoolchildren across the country to give a name to the new rover. As a result, after evaluating 28,000 options, the engineers chose the name Persistence, which was proposed by a seventh-grader named Alexander Mater of Virginia. The launch will take place this summer. In total, the flight will take 8 months – Persistence will land on Mars in February 2021. According to the official website of the American national agency, like all previous research missions, Perseverance will face difficulties and make many amazing discoveries. Recall that recently, using another NASA Insight device, scientists were able to prove the seismic activity of the Red Planet.
The Persistence launch will take place on the Atlas V rocket, which my colleague Nikolai Khizhnyak described in his material. The rover will be equipped with new research tools, including an on-board laboratory for sampling Martian rocks, 23 optical sensors and a camera of the highest resolution. Moreover, the new rover has been improved by an autonomous solar-powered helicopter whose task is to search for new places for research. Note that not a single vehicle took off in the atmosphere of another planet. Using the built-in mini-helicopter, NASA wants to know how the aircraft will behave on Mars and whether it can fly at all since the atmosphere of the Red Planet is 100 times less dense than on Earth. When Perseverance reaches the surface of Mars, it should land in the Martian crater Ezero, in which, according to NASA experts, perhaps at some point in the history of the planet, life existed. The collection of samples conducted in these parts should open up a treasury of information that can help researchers in their ongoing search for a better understanding of whether Mars was once an inhabited planet or not.
How will Perseverance get oxygen?
Despite the fact that all of the above tasks of Perseverance are somewhat amazing – even the famous science fiction writer Ray Bradbury did not predict something similar in his “Martian Chronicles” – the MOXIE gold box, designed to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide of the Red Planet into breathable oxygen, surpassed all. MOXIE has a rather complicated structure – the device has to separate oxygen atoms from existing carbon dioxide molecules, resulting in the formation of carbon monoxide, oxygen and other by-products.
The atmosphere of Mars is about 95% carbon dioxide, so its amount is enough to turn it into oxygen. Unfortunately, MOXIE produces only a small amount of oxygen – about six grams per hour – and this is just enough to save the life of a small dog. In addition, MOXIE will not work all the time, since Perseverance requires energy for other equally important scientific operations. If successful, scientists will be able once and for all to prove that enough oxygen can be produced on Mars to support human life. We think that this data will not be underestimated – in the end, we are going to send people to the Red Planet and it will be simply unbelievable if we can breathe there for a long time. It will also be extremely interesting to see how MOXIE works and how its processes will influence the exploration of Mars in the future.