Perseverance, the latest Mars rover, touched down on the Red Planet this past Thursday, February 18, 2021. I didn’t get to watch the live coverage as I had hoped, but no one else was able to see the landing live, either, as it would take more than 11 minutes for the signal and images to reach earth. So it was just as well that I didn’t get to see anything until hours later.
Nonetheless, it’s an exciting time for space flight and exploration. The landing of this rover brings us one step closer to putting man- and the first woman- on the moon, and then on Mars!
The entire landing process was autonomous. The capsule containing Perseverance had to determine the correct angle to enter Mars’ atmosphere, where it endured temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit before deploying a parachute. As it slowed, the heat shield was released, then the back shell and parachute were jettisoned after retrorockets on the descent module ignited. Once cameras and radar located a favorable landing site in Jezero Crater, a sky crane lowered Perseverance safely onto the surface of Mars. Lastly, the descent module separated and flew away, crash-landing a safe distance from Perseverance, leaving it all alone.
The moment the signal reached mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, informing the team of the landing, celebrations of joy erupted, culminating from years of hard work and effort in this moment of success. It’s impossible not to share in their excitement after this incredible achievement.
(Photo courtesy of NASA)
Perseverance is now the fifth rover to land on the surface of the Red Planet, joining Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity. Each rover had its own mission, and one of the jobs of Perseverance is to find evidence of life on Mars. And one of the ways the rover is equipped to accomplish this task is to drill down into the ancient river bed for soil samples, which will eventually be returned to earth in 2031 through another complicated process.
As someone who loves science and is an avid sci-fi fan, there are some practical takeaways. For me, the most important aspect of this mission rests in how helpful it is to all mankind. The technology developed is fascinating and will find its way into our everyday lives. We already have self-driving cars, so the automation and robotics necessary to land a rover on Mars will go a long way towards optimizing automated vehicles and help those who can’t drive themselves- the blind, elderly and disabled.
On the other hand, I’m a realist. I believe it’s a waste of money to search for something that may not exist. To date, there is absolutely no evidence of extraterrestrial life. The only reason NASA has invested so much into this search is due to evolutionary philosophy, not evidence, and not science. Just wishful thinking. In fact, NASA and SETI have searched our solar system far beyond Pluto and have come up with nothing. This is consistent with the Bible. The Bible tells us that God created life on earth, and he made the earth habitable for man. Thus, there’s no reason to believe we’ll find any evidence of life there this time around.
Despite these drawbacks, I’m eager to follow this mission, and I can’t wait to see a return trip to the moon, and then, perhaps in the 2030’s, mankind will reach Mars.