I’m not talking about in real life. I mean, perseverance has many important uses in real life, if you wish to undergo trials, tribulations and challenges, anyway. If you want an easy life and to not care by all means pass it up, it inevitably leads to suffering.
No, I am talking about NASA’s latest Mars Rover.
“But haven’t we already had rovers on Mars? What’s the point in a new one? How much did that cost? That could have paid for X, Y or Z?” I hear a lot of people cry.
Look, I get it. Earth has a shit-ton of problems and they’re not fixing themselves. Do you know what has demonstrated itself, time and again, to be proven to solve problems? Extra knowledge.
That’s what Perseverance is all about.
If I have released this article then Perseverance survived its so-called ‘seven minutes of hell’ – the atmospheric entry and landing on the planet of Mars, and is presumably all working and operational.
In which case I can guarantee there are a lot of people already very busy, and very anxious. Why? Because this Mars mission aims to answer two of the biggest questions humans have about Mars.
One was most famously posited by David Bowie. “Is there life on Mars?” – the answer is likely no, but the follow up question is “Was there life on Mars?” the answer to which our current research can only provide a shrug. We don’t know.
There seems to be evidence that there was, at a time, liquid water on Mars but I’ve got a glass of water next to me it doesn’t mean it’s growing life in it…although it probably is.
There have been some rocks that might have had what looked like ‘stuff’ in them, but ‘stuff’ is not proof.
Perseverance is intended to try to find definitive evidence, by working harder, digging deeper and investigating more thoroughly. Especially with the discovery of phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere there is an intra-spacerace going on. Who gets probed for life first, Mars or Venus? The phosphine announcement was the Venus camp setting out their stall and what Perseverance finds may make people flock to their camp.
The discovery, for sure, without doubt, of life existing or having existed outside of Earth will be the single biggest discovery in human history. It will change the way we think about life, the universe, ourselves and others. It may, cosmos will it, help us realise how small, petty and useless our squabbles are and put them aside for a greater purpose. The exploration and understanding of all that surrounds us, terrestrially and beyond.
The other big question Perseverance is trying to answer is “Are humans sent there guaranteed to die?” because the next step for NASA, after Perseverance, is a manned mission. It has an experiment ‘Moxie’ – the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – intended to discover whether oxygen can be produced or extracted from the Martian atmosphere to be used as fuel for people and machines (e.g. a propellant.)
Why would you want to go to Mars? Well say somehow humans get over their materialistic bullshit and don’t consider the potential for exploitable resources there, why wouldn’t you? Why do humans want to climb Mount Everest? Why do humans want to go to Santorini? Why do humans go kayaking? Why do some humans use sonic toothbrushes? Why do some people pick a red car and some a black one? When you get down to it a lot of what humans do, indeed a lot of what they invest a lot of time and money doing is utterly redundant.
So besides potential resource exploitation, establishment of the first semi-permanent settlement of humans off planet Earth, the potential use of Mars as a stop-gap base on the way to further manned-mission to, say, the Moons of Jupiter like Europa, the general knowledge and understanding we would gain of ourselves, our universe and this entirely alien atmosphere. Besides all of that – why does a manned mission to Mars need a reason? What makes everything you do so vital that you feel the need to ask that question?
“We choose to go to the moon…” President John F. Kennedy once said, “…and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” That much everyone knows. But he continues, “…because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
It’s not an American quality, just like NASA is not an American mission.
Perseverance could serve to organise all of humankind and measure the best of our energies and skills.
We accept challenges, and we win.
Kennedy ended that speech with this passage;
“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said “Because it is there.”
Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
Space is still there, full of mysteries. The moon has been unwalked by human feet since the 1970s and the planets still have not felt our rude touch.
That most hazardous, most dangerous and greatest adventure may have lost news coverage, gone out of fad and fashion but it never ended. Scientists, astronauts, mathematicians, programmers and engineers all worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure our foray into the great unknown was always in our sights, always in our dreams, always a mission and was never given up on.