The NASA Perseverance rover, which was built at the nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) successfully landed on Mars Thursday afternoon after several months of space travel.
After launching on a ULA Atlas 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL in the summer of 2020, the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover landed safely at the Jezero Crater on Mars Thursday afternoon.
“This mission is a step in enabling people to eventually go to other planets and come back,” Jennifer Trosper, a Santa Clarita resident who serves as the deputy project manager for the Mars 2020 mission’s Surface Development and Operations, told KHTS ahead of the rover’s launch last year.
The goal of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover, as listed on the NASA website, is to “seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.”
“It’s the first leg of a Mars sample return mission,” Trosper said. “We’re going to core into rocks and put those samples into our tubes, seal the tubes, and then we’ll leave them on the surface for the Mars sample return mission to bring back to earth.”
While NASA has launched several rovers to Mars in the past, the first being Sojourner from the Mars Pathfinder mission in the late 1990’s, though they have yet to physically return any of them back to Earth.
“They’re all still (there), nothing has come back,” Trosper said. “To get to the point where we actually bring something back from Mars would be awesome, and it’s really paving the path for sending people, because you’ve got to bring them back.”
In addition to the rover, the Mars 2020 mission also includes a helicopter drone, named “Ingenuity,” which was designed to test powered flight in the thin Martian atmosphere.
“It’s going to do five test flights,” Trosper said. “Ideally for future missions, you’d have a helicopter that could kind of go off on its own and scout ahead for the rover. That’s not quite this helicopter, but this helicopter is still a great tech demo to kind of get us to the next phase of scouting for the rovers.”
Trosper, who has worked on rover missions at JPL since the Mars Pathfinder mission, which launched in 1996, was brought onto the Mars 2020 mission to lead all of the autonomy initiatives that they have for the surface mission.
“We put a lot of autonomy stuff into the rover basically to try to help us be more operationally efficient,” she said. “(Mars) is a hundred million miles away, the one-way light time is at least 15 minutes. You can’t joystick it, and so just coming up with the set of instructions you need to give to it every day, and making sure that’s safe and making sure it accomplishes what you want to do has been a big deal.”
After hearing stories of her father’s work in the Army Corps of Engineers while she grew up on a farm in Ohio, Trosper earned a degree in aerospace engineering from MIT, and moved to California to work at JPL.
“JPL is just a really cool place,” she said. “You just are surrounded by a lot of people who know a lot broadly and deeply. They’re just great people, and so over the years, I’ve just really enjoyed being part of that community too. It’s been a real blessing to my life.”
Trosper encouraged anyone who may be interested in STEM careers to “go for it,” and get experience as early as they can.
“I found that if you are excellent at what you do, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male,” she said. “If you are the person that’s the go-to person for that thing, then you’re going to be able to do whatever you want. So just be excellent and pursue excellence, and don’t worry about the rest.”
To watch the landing of the NASA Perseverance rover, check out the video above, or click here.
For more information on the Mars 2020 mission, click here.Do you have a news tip? Call us at (661) 298-1220, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t miss a thing. Get breaking KHTS Santa Clarita News Alerts delivered right to your inbox. Report a typo or error, email Corrections@hometownstation.com
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