Perseverance Landing on Mars


Feb 18, 2021 marked a new era in space exploration: the landing of NASA rover, Perseverance, on the surface of Mars in the Jezero Crater. Jezero Crater was once the site of an ancient river delta that filled a lake. The rover was launched on July 30, 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Amanda Sarasua, Upper School Chemistry teacher said, “As someone with a degree in microbiology I appreciate the value of this expedition. For the first time ever it’s possible for us to collect samples from the surface of a distant planet and analyze if it presents conditions for current or past life. We might find our first microbial alien! The study of the planet’s geology can even allow us a better understanding of the conditions necessary for our own most basic unit of life (our cells). Humans may one day even colonize Mars and this mission is the first step toward finding out if there are resources available on the planet that would help to provide life support. This is such an amazing display of what science can do.”

The objectives of the mission are to explore a geologically diverse landing site, assess ancient habitability, seek signs of ancient life, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time, gather rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by a future NASA mission, and demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration.

The name of the rover, Perseverance, was chosen through the “Name the Rover” essay contest, featuring submissions from K-12 students all over the US. Alexander Mather, a seventh grader from Virginia, won the contest, along with his essay aboard the Perseverance rover.

Accompanying Perseverance on its mission are three microchips with the names of 10.9 million people  etched onto them, along with the essays of the contest’s semifinalists. Before the launch of the rover in 2020, people were able to submit their names to ride aboard the rover as a part of the “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign.

Perseverance will join six other rovers that have been on the surface of Mars for the past two decades, since 1997. The launch and landing of Perseverance ushers in a new decade of space exploration spearheaded by NASA.

Even through the Coronavirus pandemic, NASA was still able to follow through with its mission, showing the resilience of researchers who seek new discoveries. In the next two years, Perseverance’s findings will be shared as it roams the surface of Mars.