NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance, the most advanced astrobiology lab ever sent to another world, streaked through the Martian atmosphere on Thursday and landed safely inside a vast crater, the first stop on a search for traces of ancient microbial life on the Red Planet.
The robotic vehicle sailed through space for nearly seven months, covering 293 million miles (472 million km) before piercing the Martian atmosphere at 12,000 miles per hour (19,000 km per hour) to begin its descent to the planet’s surface.
Scientists hope to find biosignatures embedded in samples of ancient sediments that Perseverance is designed to extract from Martian rock for future analysis back on Earth - the first such specimens ever collected by humankind from another planet.
Search for Ancient Life
NASA scientists have described Perseverance as the most ambitious of nearly 20 U.S. missions to Mars dating back to the Mariner spacecraft’s 1965 fly-by. Perseverance is set to build on previous findings that liquid water once flowed on the Martian surface, and that carbon and other minerals considered precursors to the evolution of life were present.
Moreover, Perseverance’s payload also includes demonstration projects that could help pave the way for eventual human exploration of Mars, including a device that will convert the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into pure oxygen, paving the way for human beings to ultimately inhabit the planet, in lieu of space stations, as they administer to the maintenance of U.S. satellites now in outer space.
Who Owns Our Orbit
There are 2,666 operational satellites in outer space as of January 2021, and nearly 6,000 satellites circling our tiny planet. About 60% of those are defunct satellites—space junk—and roughly 40% are operational. They enable and are critical to the internet, cellular phone service, satellite TV, GPS, global surveillance and national security.
Over the coming decade, it’s estimated by Euroconsult that 990 satellites will be launched every year. This means that by 2028, there could be 15,000 satellites in orbit.
With SpaceX’s planned Starlink constellation of 12,000 satellites and Amazon’s proposed constellation in the works, the new space race continues its acceleration. SpaceX—founded by Elon Musk—is not only a disruptive launch provider for missions to the International Space Station (saving NASA millions). It’s also the largest commercial operator of satellites on the planet.
Space Tourism Begins in April 2021
Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin aims to carry its first passengers on a ride to the edge of space in a few months.
New Shepard is designed to carry people on rides past the edge of space, reaching an altitude of more than 340,000 feet (or more than 100 kilometers). The capsule spends several minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth, with massive windows to give passengers a view. Both the rockets and the capsules are reusable, with the boosters returning to land vertically and the capsules landing on control of a set of parachutes.
Jeff Bezos’ retired as Amazon’s CEO last week to devote his full attention to Blue Origin. Bezos personally funds Blue Origin’s development by selling part of his stock in Amazon. While he has previously said that he sells about $1 billion of Amazon shares annually to fund the space company, Bezos has recently increased his sales of Amazon stock, cashing out more than $10 billion worth in 2020.