UH scientists await Mars rover landing to search for possible signs of ancient life

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Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech

HONOLULU (KHON2) — After a six-month journey, NASA rover Perseverance, will land on Mars to embark on its mission to find signs of ancient microbial life.

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Since being selected for the NASA instrument teams in 2014, researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) worked to develop, test and refine scientific instruments to search for clues about past life on Mars.

Built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Perseverance is loaded with scientific instruments the teams will use to search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate and collect carefully selected rock and sediment samples for possible return to Earth by a future mission.

“There was a huge sense of relief when the launch went flawlessly in late July. Then, it was a case of waiting patiently for the spacecraft to get there,” said Sarah Fagents, a researcher at UH Manoa’s Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP).

“In October, Mars was closer to Earth than it will be for another 15 years, so it loomed large, bright and red in the night sky,” continued Fagents, who has been working on the mission since 2014. “I would go outside in the evenings and imagine the little spacecraft hurtling towards its destination. The past weeks have been increasingly nerve-racking as landing approaches. It’s incredibly hard to land on the surface of another planet and a lot of people’s hopes and dreams ride on this going well.”

A live watch party for Perseverance’s landing is scheduled for Feb. 18 at approximately 10:30 a.m. Click here to view.

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