(TMU) – NASA is rushing the mars mission due to Mars and Earth only being on the same side of the sun every 26 months.
This means the window of opportunity to launch a spacecraft to the Red Planet is closing. If the space agency is to miss this time frame, it’s estimated that it could cost “half a billion dollars,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a press briefing, Space News reported.
NASA is pushing forward with its plans to send a rover to Mars, and remains on track to launch the spacecraft next month from Cape Canaveral, officials stated.
The SUV-sized rover nicknamed Perseverance will embark on a $2.7 billion exploration mission to search for ancient signs of life on Mars, and attempt to bring samples from the Red Planet back to Earth.
Over the course of the mission, which is expected to last at least two years on the surface, the rover would also study the planet’s climate and geology to help pave the way for human exploration, NASA stated.
For the first time ever NASA revealed that its spacecraft would also be carrying a small helicopter, called “Ingenuity,” which would become the first to fly on another planet. Ingenuity would then attempt to fly which would prove to be a difficult task given that the “atmosphere on Mars is only one percent the density that we have here on Earth,” Wallace said. “Trying to control a system like this under those conditions is not easy.”
If all goes well, the spacecraft will lift off on an Atlas V rocket from the Florida Space Coast station on July 20th and land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. NASA has chosen a crater called Jezero as the landing site, an ancient lake as well as a delta, where there are rocks that date back 4 billion years.
Perseverance is expected to comb the area, drilling for samples and any potential signs of habitable conditions or signs of ancient microbial life.
“The rover will study the record that is preserved in layers of rock on the surface of Mars …that could have proved evidence of the chemical building blocks of life,” said Lori Glaze, the director of NASA’s planetary science.
As TMU previously reported, some NASA scientists believe that if there is life on Mars it is likely to be found inside the red planet’s caves. Therefore, the experts proposed building cave-exploring flexible robots.
The ideas were discussed at a recent astronomy conference called the ‘Mars Extant Life’ event at the National Cave and Karst Research Institute in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
More than 1,000 possible cave entrances have been mapped on Mars by the U.S .Geological Survey’s (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center just recently, Scientific American reported.
Robots have been scoping out Mars for years investigating the surface for signs of past life and evidence of water while orbiters circling around Mars have been imaging and mapping out the planet.
Then in 2015, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provided strong evidence that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars, according to NASA.
Finally, in 2019, it was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that ice could be just an inch beneath the surface of the planet.
NASA mapped out the entire planet’s water and ice locations last year. These areas of Mars housing water or ice near caves may be where extraterrestrial life lies in the form of microbial life and maybe even undiscovered still yet unknown organisms.
Last year, Gilbert Levin—the former principal investigator for the Labeled Release (LR) experiment on NASA’s Viking mission to Mars— wrote in an op-ed published in Scientific American, that he believes that NASA already found alien life on Mars in the 1970s, but the data was largely ignored, TMU reported.
Also happening in 2019 which many seem to forget. The InSight space rover designated to study Mars discovered strange magnetic pulsations on the surface of the planet that only happens at midnight, which caused many scientists heads to spin as a result of the discovery.
Earlier this year, TMU reported that international researchers announced they may have found a sign that life once existed on Mars. Proof of which was in the form of special compounds known as thiophenes that were found on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover, according to a study published in the journal Astrobiology.