But scientists believe that this is the case and that millions of years ago, mars was filled with vast oceans of water. In early 2021 nasa sent their most advanced rover yet to the red planet. Its mission is to search for any signs of microbial life that hint at the planets past, they name the rover, perseverance or percy. For short, even percys initial landing on mars itself was a scientific discovery. The rover landed using auto navigation, along with onboard cameras to track the planets surface and find the ideal spot to land. This helps scientists work out the best landing options for future missions to mars, percy, currently roams the red planet, guided by a new and highly advanced, auto navigational system. The majority of his day is spent analyzing rock formations. Percy is decked out with a high tech laser that fires a tiny pinpoint beam into rocks. The laser creates a plasma from the rock samples, then percys onboard spectrograph analyzes, the plasma to identify the chemical composition of the rock two of percys. Most significant findings so far are rocks that have been nicknamed mozzie and yigo. These words come from the navajo dialect in tribute to a nasa engineer from the native american navajo tribe, mazi means mars and ego means diligent. These two rocks are both salt, like in composition, meaning they are igneous rocks if youre not familiar with your rock species. Igneous means that the rocks were formed from a volcanic eruption.
The current shape of mozzie and ego suggests that they have been molded by a watery environment. This could be proof that mars was once filled with water. Another interesting rock discovered has been nicknamed the harbor seal. This is a dark, smooth rock that scientists believe had been sculpted by powerful northwesterly winds to resemble the playful marine animal. For decades, scientists have theorized about the wind and weather patterns on mars. This finding seems to support their existing weather modeling of the planet. Perseus sent back over 20 thousand images since arriving on mars in february, including an internet breaking selfie. Audio files have also been sent from the mars mission for the first time ever, we can listen in to the eerily and ambient sounds of extraterrestrial winds on the martian landscape. All thanks to the rovers onboard microphones. For the first time ever, oxygen has been produced using human technology on another planet. Inside percy is a gold plated box around the same size as a car battery. This is the moxie unit. Moxie stands for mars: oxygen in situ resource utilization, experiment, yeah, thats, a bit of a mouthful 95 of mars atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide. The moxie unit, diffuses the carbon dioxide and through an intricate chemical process, turns it into oxygen. The unit has produced a modest but still historic, 5 grams of oxygen. This works out to around 10 minutes of breathable air, its also a good sign for what could come in the future.
Who knows maybe one day moxie can produce enough oxygen to support a human colony on mars? For now, scientists are more focused on moxie, producing enough oxygen to create rocket fuel in order to propel the standard size modern day, spacecraft off of mars, you would need 7 metric tons of rocket fuel and 25 metric tons of oxygen. This would be far too heavy for a spacecraft to bring from earth. So if there is ever to be a manned mission to and from mars, there needs to be some way to create fuel on the planet. For those of you worried about percy being lonely, he actually has a special companion up there with him stowed inside the rover on his descent to mars was a small but expensive helicopter named ingenuity, but you can call her ginny. For short, the mini helicopter cost nasa 80 million dollars to develop, but every penny was worth it as ginny made history by performing the first power drone flight on another world. Jenny was a massive scientific feat, as engineers originally struggled to design a helicopter dinky enough to be stowed on an interplanetary rover but powerful enough to take flight on another planet after the success of ginny, scientists are now collecting data from the one of a kind helicopter To aid in the design of smart micro drones here on earth, the helicopter is used to explore terrain that is unsuitable for the rover. Jenny hovers over the martian landscape, collecting data and taking aerial photographs to send back to earth.
Jenny is powered by solar panels. Above the rotor blades, a big concern for scientists was that the panels would get covered in thick coatings of martian dust and leave the helicopter powerless. Luckily, airflow from the blades actually self cleans jennys solar panels inside her mechanisms, jenny carries a small postage stamp size piece of fabric from the wright brothers historic 1903 flying airplane. This is a loving tribute to the original pioneers of aviation. The curiosity rover first landed on mars back in 2012 and has been roaming the red planet for over 12 years, curiosity wasnt, designed to detect life as perseverance was, but instead to determine, if mars, had any of the necessary elements that could sustain life. This includes things such as liquid water, carbon energy sources. Curiosity found a site scientist called yellowknife bay. This site once contained an ancient lake. The rover discovered minerals left behind from the waters showing that the lake water was not too acidic or too salty. It would have had a balanced ph carbon, nitrogen and other elements that could potentially support life were all found within the crater of the ancient lake, and most important of all curiosity found potential sources of energy for microbial life. So maybe there could be existing life on mars. After all, curiosity made history by being the first mars rover to witness and measure a planetary, wide dust storm just like on earth. Wind constantly blows on mars grinding away at the geology.
This creates lots of dust which eventually gets whipped up into large clouds. The dust clouds absorb sunlight and heat up, making the winds more intense without any rain or oceans. Every few years the clouds grow so large that they wrap around the entire planet and create a giant dust storm in 2018. Curiosity witnessed one of these great storms. From the martian surface. It noted that sunlight on the planet decreased by 97 percent and many large sand dunes were left behind. Curiosity has spent more than a decade measuring the radiation environment on mars. This allows scientists to work out if humans could safely visit the red planet without turning radioactive. So far, the news is encouraging and the mars radiation levels are comparable to those experienced by astronauts aboard the international space station. This means that astronauts could endure a long term round trip without having to worry about radiation. Too much mars is home to the largest volcano. In the solar system olympus mons, this giant volcano is 14 miles high thats about two and a half times the size of mount everest. The volcano was formed millions of years ago, a time when mars was filled with countless volcanoes spewing molten lava across the planets surface. Olympus mons is a shield volcano, so, rather than violently spewing lava and flames up into the air lava would flow slowly down the sides of the volcano. This gives it its low squad, appearance and an average slope of only five percent.
At only a few million years old olympus mons is still a fairly young volcano because of this scientists believe that it could potentially still be active, so maybe it could erupt at some point in the future. The curiosity rover doesnt just eye up the local geology. It also takes a note of whats happening in the sky. In march 2021, it captured these shimmering iridescent colors in the sky named mother of pearl clouds. This colorful display occurs when all the cloud particles are nearly identical in size.