United Kingdom researchers to help with search for life on Mars

Perseverance with xxx attached to its belly Kennedy Space Center 6 April 2020

Patience is key because Perseverance won't arrive on Mars until February 2021.

As a member of the science team, Czaja will be involved on a day-to-day basis once Perseverance lands on Mars. It will collect rock and soil samples that look like they may have been altered by contact with microorganisms.

This summer's third and final mission to Mars - after the United Arab Emirates' Hope orbiter and China's Quest for Heavenly Truth orbiter-rover combo - begins with a launch scheduled for Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral.

Perseverance will be carrying some of the most sophisticated cameras, microphones, and tools ever delivered to the Red Planet to seek out signs of organic life inside the remains of a billion-year-old Martian delta and lake.

Professor Caroline Smith, from the Natural History Museum, will study the mineralogy and geochemistry of the different rocks found in the crater. The samples will shed light on Mars' history and whether it has ever supported microbial lifeforms.

Perseverance will carry instruments geared to search for the carbon building blocks of life and other microbes and to reconstruct the geological history of the Red Planet. The mission also provides opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of upcoming human voyages to Mars.

What are the best rock samples to collect?

The Rover also carries the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, that will fly short distances from the rover and marks the first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet.

The Rosalind Franklin rover, which was built by Airbus in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, will be able to drill 6.5ft (2m) below the surface, gathering samples from regions not affected by radiation. Other planned activities will be to test a process for producing breathable oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, locating any other precious resources like subsurface water, and identifying weather patterns, dust, and other hazardous environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts.

The launch window opens at 7:50 a.m. ET, which means that that is the earliest time at which takeoff can happen. If not, the mission will have to wait 26 months until the Earth and Mars are aligned again as they are supposed to be for this mission.



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