“Perseverance” trailblazes the possibility of life on Mars

Taylor Moore

In 1997, Sojourner was the first rover to land on Mars. 24 years later, on Feb. 18, 2021, Perseverance became the fifth. With this, the implications for the future of science are becoming clear. 

After seven months of soaring through space, Perseverance finally made its landing at Jezero Crater, the rover’s heartbeat tone assuring scientists of its safety. This is one of the greatest facts to learn about space missions- all spacecraft since 2005 have a particular dial-tone noise built in. The noise plays back to Earth in regular bursts to reaffirm that it is stable- in other words, a heartbeat. Humans wish so much that we aren’t alone in the universe that we give the vehicles searching for other life fragments of life for themselves. 

  This is one of the main reasons Jezero Crater was chosen as a landing site. At a glance Jezero is one of the more difficult places to land at, as normally landing points are big and flat, so there is some wiggle room when the rover is making contact. But, landing at Jezero was just too big an opportunity to pass up. The crater is the site of an ancient lake bed, around 3.5 billion years ago. 

Pictures of Jezero Crater show this, with large, sweeping deltas of deposited sediment visible near the landing site. This is so revolutionary because if there were ever life on Mars, likely in the form of microscopic bacteria, it would be there, as water is a key component of life. 

Finding life on Mars could impact centuries of scientific discoveries, including the chances of colonizing the planet. If there is evidence of bacteria on Mars, then there is support for the theory that both the water and lifeforms have retreated under the surface. For an impact closer to home, if life on Mars was anywhere similar to life on Earth, it would provide credibility to the theory of Panspermia. This is the idea that life may be transferred from star system to star system, or even galaxy to galaxy, by interstellar objects like asteroids. Finding life on Mars could literally help us answer where we came from.

There are so many features built into the Perseverance rover, and so much rests on its shoulders.