Much like Dumbledore, we once again must ask too much of a spunky youngster.
In a little over 3 months (and to start a new year on a positive note) Perseverance Rover will be Mars-side.
The goodest boy will hound dog for scents of life on a mostly barren and inhospitable planet. A red planet, that exists as a dead planet. And Persy will make contact with Mars at the site of it's unbecoming.
Since launching on July 30th, Persy has been in transit towards Mars and - all things going to plan - will land inside the 45 km diameter Jezero Crater on February 18th, 2021.
Why the Jezero Crater?
Rovers and satellites alike have found clear evidence of water in the crater. Mars once flowed with rivers that filled colossal lakes and could have provided the planet with a planet-esque ocean.
The crater, when warm and moist in ancient times, may have provided a cushy life-bearing climate for microscopic life. Much like Earth.
And it stands to reason that the crater holds key evidence on the fashion Mars died.
In a discovery researchers called "unexpected", the three-billion-year old mystery of Mars' water was unlocked by the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) satellite. The craft found H2O molecules are slipping through a protective barrier in Mars' atmosphere. Quite easily, actually.
Once upon a time, Mars probably resembled Earth like a cousin. Both had molten cores of electrically charged metal that churned with liquid currents and fed magnetism into the atmosphere to create barriers around the planets.
These barriers protect planets from solar winds' radiation, electrical waves from the Sun and guarded early Mars' atmosphere.
With thick atmosphere layers, water streamed freely and nourished Mars. Or so we understand given the current evidence.
The undoing of Mars was its inadequate size. To stay habitable for the long haul, Mars needed to maintain a larger swirling core.
Its smaller core stopped.
It's guts cooled.
And the protected magnetic barrier fell unleashing the atmosphere into space. The planet's water followed.
But some water remained in the form of ice, which we discovered on July 31, 2008, using NASA's Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer's (TEGA) mass spectrometer.
While the landing zone is a clear target, the final stretch will be a challenge for the Rover's handlers.
"While we call the six-and-a-half-month trip from Earth to Mars 'cruise, I assure you there is not much croquet going on at the lido deck," said NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission project manager, John McNamee.
"Between checking out the spacecraft and planning and simulating our landing and surface operations, the entire team is on the clock, working toward our exploration of Jezero Crater," he continued.
As the focal point of NASA's $2.7 billion Mars mission, Persy will perform a tried and true landing pioneered by Curiosity Rover. Firstly, a "rocket-powered sky crane" will lower Persy into Jezero Crater on cables like a pro-wrestler before flying a safe distance away to crash and sadly, die.
It's not all bad.
A tiny helicopter named Ingenuity is strapped to the belly of Persy. Ingenuity will make a few short flights into the sky - a first-ever rotorcraft to fly on a planet other than Earth - to gather data and insight from altitude. This allows info on hard-to-reach pockets on Mars and planning routes for Persy.
On Mars, Persy will hunt for ancient signs of Martian life using an advanced suite of instruments in Jezero Crater. Some will be kept and cached for a return to Earth.
Microbial Martian invasion anyone?
One of Persy's key instruments, Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment (MOXIE) will generate oxygen from the thin, CO2 rich atmosphere on Mars.
MOXIE will be a trial for a scaled-up version to aid humans in securing a safe foothold on the Martian planet.
Thankfully, Persy and Curiosity won't be alone.
Two other scheduled Mars missions from the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and China's Tianwen-1 mission will reach Mars with a weather studying orbiter and lander & rover duo respectively. The missions are expected to join Persy about the same time in February 2021.
Thanks for reading and please share with an astro-friend to squeeze all the love out of ARSE.