On December 8, NASA revealed the details of five mysterious and interesting objects that the Perseverance Mars Rover had on its mission to probe signs of Martian life. Perseverance rover was built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
NASA described the objects as ‘decorative and functional’ and stated that addition of these ‘extras’ is part of the ‘early space age’ tradition, now termed as ‘festooning’. It also stated that the rover is more than halfway to the Red Planet and it is just shuttling sophisticated science instruments and tubes to be filled with Earth-bound rock samples. The rover is also carrying some symbols, mottos and objects that are playful, like names of 10.9 million people who have purchased the tickets to fly to Mars.
Jim Bell of Arizona State University, principal investigator of Perseverance’s Mastcam-Z, said that these kinds of embellishments add artistic elements on missions that are usually dominated by science and technology. They also pay tributes to colleagues who have helped in paving way for humanity’s exploration of space.
I’m bringing along special items on the #CountdownToMars as part of a @NASA tradition called “festooning.” These items, both practical and decorative, include a sundial, ~11 million names, and spacesuit material to test for future human exploration of Mars https://t.co/Wm8mlLmkbZ pic.twitter.com/osIEDZewp1— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) December 8, 2020
Here is a list that NASA shared about of key objects onboard perseverance that serve a dual purpose:
· Sherloc’s coin: This is a special coin made of spacesuit materials like helmet-visor material. With the address of popular fictional detective name inscribed on it, this coin is a part of calibration target for ‘SHERLOC’, which stands for ‘Scanning Habitable Environment with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals’, placed on the end of Perseverance’s 7-foot-long robotic arm.
Sherloc is an instrument used with another camera like instrument, WATSON (the Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) – which clicks pictures in the space. A slice of Martian meteorite has also been added to it, along with four other samples of spacesuit materials.
· Mastcam-Z: According to NASA, this is perseverance’s eyes. It is similar to a sundial device that helps scientists and astronauts to determine if it is day or night in the space. The camera induces colour and grayscale swatches to determine the sun’s position from space. It also displays small drawing of early life forms on Earth.
· Microchip with 11 Million names: Perseverance is carrying three microchips stencilled with names of almost 11 million people who wished to fly to Mars ‘virtually’. These chips are also carrying 155 finalist essays submitted for ‘Name the Rover’ contest.
The tradition of carrying names of people to Mars goes back to Pathfinder in 1997. The last rover to land on Mars, Curiosity, carried names of almost 1.2 million people and Perseverance carried 10.9 million.
· COVID Memorial: To pay a tribute and honor frontline health workers during the global pandemic, the perseverance is also carrying a plate which commemorates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and pays tribute to victims and healthcare workers who lost their lives battling the coronavirus. The aluminium plate is installed on the left side of the rover with an image of Earth being supported by the Rod of Asclepius, a Greek symbol for healing and medicines. The engineers managed to complete the building and testing of Perseverance in California and Florida while following safety precautions.
· SuperCam: It is a laser instrument that bolts rocks, soil to determines its composition from vapor. This might be the favourite among rock collectors and geologists, NASA guesses. This instrument has already made a round trip to the International Space Station (ISS) before it was put on Perseverance. Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, the French space agency, provided the parts of SuperCam on Perseverance’s head.
The Perseverance’s mission’s key objective is to search for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars. It will be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock, as the rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate paving way for human exploration of Mars.
Read more here.