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NASA news: Meet Perseverance – the rover that will hunt for alien life on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover is a robotic scientist weighing a little less than 1,043kg. Managed for the agency by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the NASA rover’s astrobiology mission includes searching for signs of past microbial alien life.

The rover will analyse the Red Planet’s climate and geology.

We can’t wait to see this nameplate on Mars

Dr Thomas Zurbuchen

Perseverance will also collect samples of Martian rocks and dust for a future Mars Sample Return mission to Earth.

This will hopefully pave the way for eventual human exploration of Mars.

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John McNamee, project manager of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission, said: “When word went out during the naming event here at JPL, I took a moment to look around the auditorium.

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NASA news: NASA’s next Mars rover has a new name – Perseverance (Image: NASA)

NASA news: Atlas V launched Curiosity in 2011 (Image: Getty)

“I saw all these dedicated men and women who for years have invested the full measure of their intellect and stamina into the most technologically advanced rover mission in history – and I saw a lot of smiling faces and high-fives.

“Perseverance? You bet, that is a worthy name that we can be proud of as the first leg of a sample return campaign.”

Perseverance currently is undergoing final assembly and checkout at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

US-based space agency NASA has targeted the rover to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater a little after 8.40pm GMT (3.40pm ET) on February 18, 2021.

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NASA news: Perseverance rover and the helicopter will launch together aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket this summer (Image: NASA)

NASA news: The 2020 rover will land within the oval in Mars’ Jezero Crater (Image: NASA)

Mars 2020 is part of a larger program including missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Charged with landing the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis program.

Perseverance’s name was announced yesterday by Dr Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate.

Dr Zurbuchen was at the school to congratulate seventh grader Alexander Mather, who submitted the winning entry to NASA’s Name the Rover essay contest, which received 28,000 entries from students from every US state.

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The Science Mission Directorate head said: “Alex’s entry captured the spirit of exploration.

“Like every exploration mission before, our rover is going to face challenges, and it’s going to make amazing discoveries.

“It’s already surmounted many obstacles to get us to the point where we are today – processing for launch.

“Alex and his classmates are the Artemis Generation, and they’re going to be taking the next steps into space that lead to Mars.

NASA news: Perseverance will hopefully pave the way for eventual human exploration of Mars (Image: Express)

“That inspiring work will always require perseverance. We can’t wait to see that nameplate on Mars.”

Perseverance is the latest in a long line of Red Planet rovers to be named by school-age children, from Sojourner in 1997 to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which landed on Mars in 2004, to Curiosity, which has been exploring Mars since 2012.

The contest that resulted in Alex’s winning entry of Perseverance began in August last year.

Nearly 4,700 volunteer judges – educators, professionals and space enthusiasts from around the country – reviewed submissions to help narrow the pool down to 155 semi finalists.

Once that group was whittled down to nine finalists, the public had five days to weigh in on their favourites, logging more than 770,000 votes online, with the results submitted to NASA for consideration.

The nine finalists also talked with a panel of experts, including Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division; NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins; rover driver Nick Wiltsie at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Clara Ma, who, as a sixth grade student in 2009, named Curiosity.

Alex said in a statement: “This was a chance to help the agency that put humans on the Moon and will soon do it again.

”This Mars rover will help pave the way for human presence there and I wanted to try and help in any way I could. Refusal of the challenge was not an option.”


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