Scientists on Mars believe a mysterious object might belong to aliens; in reality it’s simply part of NASA’s Perseverance Rover which came into contact with it during its high-speed landing in February 2021.
Perseverance, the car-sized robot exploring Jezero Crater in search of organic molecules which might indicate past life is currently searching the rocks near its floor for evidence of past lakelife that once held water. According to planetary scientists, Perseverance will eventually arrive at its goal of discovering organic molecules which may provide evidence of past existence on Jezero Crater.
Phoenix was developed by the University of Arizona to study Mars’ polar regions. With its robotic arm digging into arctic terrain for evidence of water, and searching for environments suitable for microbes. Landed just before northern summer solstice to take advantage of increased solar radiation at that time of year and gain more power than otherwise possible.
Phoenix differed significantly from Spirit and Opportunity rovers, which roamed their landing sites for years, in that it stayed put at one location for months while testing Martian soil with its robotic digging arm and self-contained chemistry lab. One notable discovery made by Phoenix was perchlorate, an attractive chemical which draws moisture out of humid Martian air to form liquid that remained on Mars’ surface; scientists hypothesize it may have also combined with salts on Mars’ surface and created liquid that stayed there permanently. Additionally, snowfall was observed using laser instruments which measured wind speed and direction.
Mariner 9 was created with cutting-edge instruments in mind in order to better understand Mars. Even during a massive dust storm that enveloped its spacecraft in 2004, most of its original objectives – ultraviolet cartography and ultraviolet aeronomy among them – were successfully achieved.
Mariner 9 revealed an unexpectedly fascinating planet when the dust settled; we saw vast canyon systems like Valles Marineris across its surface, as well as dark spots which turned out to be volcanoes – including Olympus Mons, which dwarfs all other world volcanoes.
Mariner 9 also revealed the orbits and surfaces of two Martian moons for the first time, offering unprecedented views. Operating until October 1972 despite its originally intended mission, this craft dramatically altered our perceptions of Mars; helping revive astrobiology while reinvigorating old beliefs that Mars once supported life.
Beagle 2, an English spacecraft led by ESA that launched with Mars Express on Christmas Day 2003 and made a descent towards Mars but lost communication almost instantly – never to return or be seen again.
Mark Simms of Leicester University was Beagle 2’s mission manager. According to him, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured images that appear to show Beagle 2 with its HiRISE camera. These show what appears to be front shields, rear covers and possibly pilot/drogue parachute structures – making him “not entirely certain but I think this could be it,” Simms stated.
Discovering Beagle 2 was both welcome news and heartbreaking for many who had invested so much into its mission, only for it to fall away abruptly without success. The Beagle 2 team included UK academic and industrial groups led by Open University Professor Colin Pillinger who passed away unexpectedly without ever hearing how its journey had fared.
Perseverance’s main task is to systematically analyze Mars’ geology and climate history, search for signs of life on its surface, and pave the way for human exploration. Perseverance uses its drill to produce chalk-stick-sized samples which fit snugly inside cigar-shaped tubes: eight hold rock specimens while one contains atmospheric samples.
The rover is currently exploring the western edge of Jezero Crater, which once hosted a lake and river delta. Scientists think such environments might have provided ideal environments for life to exist as such environments often preserve fossilized evidence of organisms.
The rover has drilled into a mix of volcanic and sedimentary rocks that should provide insights into the history of its host crater. It also boasts an instrument designed to search for organic material – essential ingredients of life on Mars – should it detect any evidence for life on its surface. If this instrument reveals promising evidence, a NASA-European spacecraft specially created for future Mars missions may retrieve samples from onboard samples before returning them back home for testing; this mission is scheduled to launch by late 2020s.