We recently covered how NASAs Perseverance rover, which landed safely on the surface of Mars in February, was powered by batteries made in Joplin, Missouri. But that isn’t Missouri’s only connection to the interstellar mission.
Impossible Sensing, an optics technology business, is representing Missouri in the data-analysis part of the mission. Company founder Pablo Sobron said his team will receive data from Mars’ surface and then analyze it to determine any distribution of organic compounds — in other words, signs of life.
Sobron, who first came to St. Louis in 2008 to do post-graduate work at Washington University, said his company helped design and build the equipment now on the surface and will have its own equipment on future missions.
Perseverance is the largest rover to date sent by NASA to the surface of Mars. It has a 7-foot robotic arm that can drill and grip to collect rock samples. It has nearly two dozen cameras as well as two microphones that will allow us to hear the red planet for the first time. On board are 43 sample tubes that will be used to store rock and soil samples as NASA readies a follow-up mission to collect those samples, with the goal of bringing them back to Earth.
Perseverance also has a 4-pound helicopter stored aboard to help scout out distant Martian territory for future missions and hopefully, one day, for astronauts. Saint Louis University graduate Fernando Abilleira led the way at mission control as the deputy mission manager in charge of design and navigation for the Perseverance landing.
Missouri has a long history of powering NASA’s space program including the InSight Lander, which is currently on the surface of Mars, NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft and the International Space Station. And Missouri has been a key part of the US space program since the 1950s driving the development of the Mercury and Gemini space programs and the CST-100 Starliner.
“The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet in the 2030s.”