NASA 's remarkable journey on Mars started about 23 years ago, in 1997: Mars Pathfinder Mission landed on Martian soil with the Sojourner rover that lasted for 83 days it was a milestone success in the human history. NASA send the twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, to Mars in 2003, followed by Curiosity in 2012, followed by Perseverance recently! The Sojourner rover is a technology demonstration mission, the rover was small- almost like a toy. Spirit and Opportunity were much larger about the size of a golf cart, they set a new paradigm of a long-term robotic presence on Mars, lasting about 6 and 15 years, respectively. Curiosity landed in 2012: and continues to operate today. With each new generation of rovers, NASA has added new capabilities and a somewhat different instrument suite to answer important scientific questions. Examples would be the addition of a drill on Spirit and Opportunity, and a mass spectrometer, an instrument to measure isotopes of different elements, for Curiosity. With the launch of Mars Perseverance, the fourth generation of Mars rovers, NASA will take forward this tradition.
So, what’s unique about Perseverance?
Here you go First, Perseverance will carry a unique instrument, MOXIE or Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment: which for the first time will manufacture molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere. There is the new push for ISRU at NASA: in NASA jargon, ISRU means In Situ Resource Utilization: or the use of local resources to meet human needs or requirements of the spacecraft. Without ISRU, exploration of Mars in the future decades will be incredibly expensive and thereby impossible. If astronauts have to carry oxygen or water or rocket fuel for their journey for a two-year journey to Mars and back, the cost will be understandably excessive. Thus, if the technology demonstration is successful, NASA can easily scale up the oxygen generation rate per day for MOXIE by a hundred times: this would be of great use for a future human mission to Mars. Second, Perseverance will carry Ingenuity, the first ever helicopter to fly on Mars. This is the first time NASA will fly a helicopter on another planet or satellite. Ingenuity is a technology demonstration: the challenge, of course, is to fly the helicopter in the thin atmosphere of Mars. Like a drone on Earth, a Mars helicopter can help in rover drive planning and in fetching samples from locations that the rover cannot safely drive to. If this technology demonstration is successful, we will see a greater role for such helicopters in future missions. Third, Perseverance is the planned first step to bring back rock samples from Mars for analysis in sophisticated laboratories on Earth: with the goal of looking for biosignatures: or signatures of present or past life. Perseverance will collect samples and a second rover mission will fly within a decade to help transport the rock samples back to Earth.
(Reference: Indian express, Destination Mars, space.com, mars.nasa.gov, bbc.c