NOVA “Looking for Life on Mars” Goes Inside the Mission to Search for Life on the Red Planet

This high-resolution still image is part of a video taken by several cameras as NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. A camera aboard the descent stage captured this shot. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
  • NOVA takes viewers behind the scenes as NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down in Mars’ Jezero crater
  • Premieres Wednesday, February 24 at 9 p.m. ET/8C on PBS
  • Also Available for Streaming Online and on the PBS video app

BOSTON, February 19, 2021 (PBS PR) — LOOKING FOR LIFE ON MARS, a one-hour special from the PBS science series NOVA, a production of GBH Boston, will follow NASA’s Mars 2020 mission—perhaps the most ambitious search yet for traces of ancient life on the red planet. The special premieres Wednesday, February 24 at 9 p.m. ET/8C on PBS and will be available for streaming online and on the PBS video app.

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Touchdown! NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Safely Lands on Red Planet

A low-resolution image of the Perseverance rover’s landing site taken by an engineering camera. Dust stirred up by the landing partially obscures the terrain. (Credit: NASA)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world touched down on Mars Thursday, after a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kilometers). Confirmation of the successful touchdown was announced in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST).

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Perseverance Experiment to Produce Oxygen on Mars

Video Caption: MOXIE, short for the Mars OXygen In situ resource utilization Experiment, is one of the seven experiments hitching a ride on the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover. It’s a collaboration between MIT AeroAstro, the MIT Haystack Observatory, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Carbon dioxide makes up about 96 percent of the gas in Mars’ atmosphere. MOXIE contains a system that pulls in Martian air and electrochemically splits the carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and an onboard sensor will allow us to measure the purity of the oxygen we generate. MOXIE will help us get ready for future missions by demonstrating that we can make our own oxygen on Mars to use for rocket propellant and for the crew to breathe when we get there.

AeroAstro graduate student Eric Hinterman has been working on MOXIE since 2016, when he started modeling the MOXIE software and hardware as part of his Master’s thesis. He has continued his work as a PhD candidate, where he is looking at the design and engineering challenges of scaling up the MOXIE technology to a full-size system that could support human life on a Mars mission in the future.

Produced by MIT Video Productions
Directed by Sara Cody, Communications Officer, MIT AeroAstro
Featuring Eric Hinterman

Additional footage provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech
Music credit: Endless Horizons by Ian Post | Artlist.io

NASA’s Perseverance Rover 22 Days From Mars Landing

This illustration shows the events that occur in the final minutes of the nearly seven-month journey that NASA’s Perseverance rover takes to Mars. Hundreds of critical events must execute perfectly and exactly on time for the rover to land on Mars safely on Feb. 18, 2021. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Seven minutes of harrowing descent to the Red Planet is in the not-so-distant future for the agency’s Mars 2020 mission.  

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is just 22 days from landing on the surface of Mars. The spacecraft has about 25.6 million miles (41.2 million kilometers) remaining in its 292.5-million-mile (470.8-million-kilometer) journey and is currently closing that distance at 1.6 miles per second (2.5 kilometers per second). Once at the top of the Red Planet’s atmosphere, an action-packed seven minutes of descent awaits – complete with temperatures equivalent to the surface of the Sun, a supersonic parachute inflation, and the first ever autonomous guided landing on Mars.

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7 Things to Know About the NASA Rover About to Land on Mars

In a clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, engineers observed the first driving test for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on Dec. 17, 2019. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — With only about 50 million miles (80 million kilometers) left to go in its 293-million-mile (471-million-kilometer) journey, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is nearing its new planetary home. The spacecraft has begun its approach to the Red Planet and in 43 days, on Feb. 18, 2021, Perseverance will blaze through Mars’ atmosphere at about 12,100 mph (19,500 kph), touching down gently on the surface about seven minutes later.

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MOXIE Could Help Future Rockets Launch Off Mars

Engineers lower MOXIE into the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Perseverance rover carries a device to convert Martian air into oxygen that, if produced on a larger scale, could be used not just for breathing, but also for fuel.


PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the hardest things about sending astronauts to Mars will be getting them home. Launching a rocket off the surface of the Red Planet will require industrial quantities of oxygen, a crucial part of propellant: A crew of four would need about 55,000 pounds (25 metric tons) of it to produce thrust from 15,000 pounds (7 metric tons) of rocket fuel.

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NASA’s Next Mars Rover to Test Tech Useful for Human Missions

As seen in this artist’s concept, the SHERLOC instrument is located on the end of the robotic arm of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

by Margo Pierce
NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate

Robot explorers are helping pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, is equipped with technology to teach us more about the environment and demonstrate what’s needed to support future crewed missions.

“Perseverance paves the way for new science and technological discoveries,” said Jim Reuter, the associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “The knowledge and capabilities we gain from this mission will help prepare us for human missions on Mars as early as the 2030s. Technology will drive that exploration.”

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