More than a year after NASA launched the Perseverance rover for Mars, the space agency is bringing the focus back on how its precise landing spot was decided or who chose where it should land. In an Instagram post, NASA said that the rover made the decision moments before it touched down on the surface on February 18 this year. The rover landed in the Jezero crater, which is believed to have hosted a big lake and a river delta in ancient times. The mission objective is to see whether these once-existing water bodies can throw some light on past life on Mars.
NASA thanked engineer Swati Mohan and a new technology called Terrain Relative Navigation for making the most challenging landing ever attempted on Mars a success. NASA’s latest Instagram post accompanied a video of Mohan, explaining how Perseverance picked its landing spot.
Mohan said when NASA decided to send a rover to Mars, a whole group of experts got together to figure out where it is supposed to go. The Jezero crater got scientists interested because of the rocks, the hills, and the lakes that had the most likelihood of giving out signs of past life on Mars. But to land, Perseverance needed to see the surface before landing. The Terrain Relative Navigation technology was like an eye to the rover, Mohan added. This enabled it to figure out where it was and where it should go for a smooth and safe landing. So it chose its landing spot on its own after analysing the surface.
The rover’s mission is to collect samples of Martian rock and soil. These samples will be picked up by a future mission for detailed analysis on Earth, according to NASA. “Perseverance will also test technologies that could pave the way for future human exploration of Mars,” the agency added. However, Perseverance is not alone in this mission. It has a helicopter, Ingenuity, for aerial surveillance.