Meet Perseverance

Maya Guzman, Writer

On Feb. 18 at 12:55 p.m. PST , inside Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, exhilaration surged through Americans when The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover successfully landed on planet Mars.


As early as 1997, with the first man made rover Sojourner, NASA has shown immense fascination towards the planet Mars; at the time the approximate 2ftx2.5ft rover had made its discovery of organic compounds and groundbreaking prior water-soaked regions. Since then, NASA has progressed in its research and has grown to send a total of five robotic vehicles to Mars.


In comparison, the Mars rover, Perseverance (or “Percy” as NASA officials have nicknamed the rover), is far more unique, with not only seven different cameras on its exterior ranging from Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry to Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals, but the rover itself inspects and stores the rock cores found on the planet’s surface and plants them for later expeditions where they will be inspected. An additional development to the rover’s structure, Perseverance will also descend from a canopy shape parachute estimated at 70.5ft wide and will transport with helicopter-like blades and wings.


As we have all undergone modification in our routine following a global pandemic, NASA JPL Subcontracts Manager, Nancy Avila, recounts to her change in preparation for landing day. In an interview, Avila describes her contribution to the event; working at JPL acquisition for a total of 10 years now, she has participated in preparing equipment, organizing contracts and licenses, as well as managed communication with research teams. 


Prior to the landing, Avila describes there has been loads of anticipation and uncertainty regarding financial costs of the landing. Speaking on behalf of this past year’s tragic events, the NASA JPL Manager explained, “it was the worst time for failure”. However, despite these concerns leading to both launch and landing day, NASA stayed true to its words “we do not fail we learn.” Concluding the event with NASA’s traditional good luck peanuts, Avila and her co-workers enjoyed a distance landing day filled with pride and simultaneous relief.


While the expedition was a catharsis experience for NASA technicians, back on earth, aspiring engineer Claudette De La Garza, 12, describes the event as nothing short of incredible. To De La Garza, the peak of the event occurred while watching the ambitions of Colombian born aerospace engineer, Diana Trujillo, challenge the stigmas behind women in STEM related fields with her actions. De La Garza spoke, “there is progress being made in society… there needs to be more recognition.”


While De La Garza took away an empowering message from the landing, aiming Psychobiologist Brittany Salinas, 12, alluded to her newfound intrigue after hearing a media cover story of the expedition. Salinas stated, “it’s crazy to think about the knowledge we have yet to grasp merely because of technological advancements and distance.”


Though events as these are undoubtedly exciting and intriguing, it is important that as a community we continue to encourage our youth to push the boundaries of possibility. As NASA has exemplified through exploration after exploration, there is much in this universe we have yet to understand. By participating in monumentous occurrences such as the events of Feb. 18, we take a step forward into the unknown and begin to practice free thought. As workers at NASA have emphasized, “we do not fail, we learn.”