Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Matiyas. Matiyas Wonders, “What features does the NASA space rover Perserverance have?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Matiyas!

Picture it: You’re on the shore of a large, sparkling lake. The water is calm and cool. Off to your right, you can see the point at which the lake connects to a river delta. You watch as strange animals swim below the surface and crawl onto the beach. Above you, two moons float in the sky.

Wait. Two moons? Yes, that’s right—you’re on Mars! You’ve also traveled back in time about four billion years. That lake you’re looking at is what we now call the Jezero crater. No water is present there today, but scientists think it’s the best place to search for signs of past life on the Red Planet.

It’s no coincidence that Jezero crater is also where NASA sent its Perseverance Rover. Perseverance landed there on February 18, 2021, after a seven-month journey. It immediately set about its mission—searching for signs of past life.

What evidence would point to past life? Experts hope Perseverance discovers fossils of ancient microbes. It’s also looking for molecules that contain carbon. These discoveries would confirm their belief that Mars once hosted life forms.

In addition to searching for signs of life, Perseverance will collect rock and soil samples. Future missions will bring these back to Earth. The rover will also use microphones to record sounds from Mars for the first time.

Perseverance includes a few tools that set it apart from past rovers. For instance, it has a special drill to collect samples. It also has an internal workspace and software that makes it easier for humans to operate the rover. Finally, it carries a radar device that can detect underground water up to about 33 feet (10 meters) below the surface.

What does Perseverance look like? At 10 feet long and nine feet wide, it’s about the size of a small car. The body of the rover is made of strong metal that protects the electronics within. Perseverance was built with newly designed wheels that should last longer on the rough Martian surface. It also has a larger turret than the Curiosity rover did. This will aid in its ability to drill and take photographs. In fact, Perseverance has already sent several stunning pictures of Mars back to Earth.

The rover also brought along another device, the Mars Helicopter called Ingenuity. The helicopter will be the first to test powered flight on another planet. Experts hope to learn about the possibility of flight on Mars from this test.

What do you hope we learn from the Perseverance rover? Would you like to see Mars in person one day? With any luck, it could be possible in your lifetime!

Standards: NGSS.ESS1.A, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is making quite the RACQUET!