The space agency has offered some new information regarding the probe’s sensors while it moves on the Martian surface in search of signs of life. A high-tech powered camera and a special ultraviolet laser will operate together in order to analyze Mars’ soil and examine its mineral and chemical composition.
Detecting Signs of Alien Life
The main tool on the rover, named Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC), will be attached at the end of one of Perseverance’s robotic arms. SHERLOC will radiate a quarter-sized ultraviolet laser at the surface, while researchers will measure the manner the light disperses when it hits the ground in order to figure out what type of minerals and chemicals it is made of.
The method will also detect the unique spectral ‘fingerprint’ particular extraterrestrial organic material might emit. Alien life experts hope this can find potential signs of past life on Mars.
NASA’s Luther Beegle told the JPL news blog: “Life is clumpy. If we see organics clumping together on one part of a rock, it might be a sign that microbes thrived there in the past.”
SHERLOC was named after the Indian physicist C.V. Raman, who was the first to use light-scattering spectroscopy in the 1920s.
Sampling Mars’ Chemicals
The instrument will also operate along with another tool, which was dubbed Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering (WATSON). WATSON will help with the light-scattering spectroscopy and enable the Mars rover’s remote operators to detect promising regions of the ground to gather samples from.
The probe’s robotic arm will store the samples in half-inch wide metal tubes, which will remain on the planet’s surface until a subsequent Mars mission crew will collect them and take them to Earth for analysis.
WATSON can also be used to monitor the probe’s condition, which will be loaded with five samples of fabric and helmet material on which the instruments will collect data. These will track the impacts of radiation on the material to figure out whether it is safe to be used for a human spacesuit.
NASA plans to launch Perseverance in late July of this year, with an expected touchdown date on February 18th, 2021.