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NASA’s Perseverance is More Than A Space Mission – It Signifies Yet Another Wave of New Technologies For Earth
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March 31, 2021 Blog

 

The launch of the first artificial satellite was the start of what we call the ‘Space Race’, where the then Soviet Union and the United States competed against each other to achieve various milestones in space exploration. More than war, however, this series of space missions (and beyond) has signified the invention and development of important technologies that we are still using in our everyday life.

Today, we are seeing the progress of new technologies as space agencies, especially the US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), aim to conduct much more ambitious missions – such as sending humans to Mars.

Just this February 18, NASA successfully sent another rover to the surface of Mars, since the last visit in 2012, called Perseverance. Its mission is to search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance NASA’s quest to explore the past habitability of Mars.

In addition, NASA will be sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. The agency is also planning a crewed Mars mission as early as the 2030s, sending humans to the Red Planet for the first time.

All of this is possible with various technological advancements – technologies that will be used by humans on Earth like we are using those that have been developed in the past made possible through previous space missions.

These include technologies found in camera phones, CAT scans, home insulation, memory foam, water purification systems and even the computer mouse. This just proved that space missions have contributed significantly to society, beyond exploring space.

Now that NASA is aiming for more advanced missions, what new technologies can we expect and how can they be used on Earth?

  1. Launch propulsion systems: Technologies used in transporting spacecraft and rovers can also be used on Earth’s vehicles. This produces faster and cheaper air transportation and safer and more efficient fuels for air and ground transportation.
  2. Communication and navigation systems: The recent Perseverance mission used new technologies for its entry, descent, and landing (such as range trigger and terrain-relative navigation), allowing for a more efficient and faster journey to Mars’ surface. These technologies can be used to improve hazard avoidance for aircraft and for hypersonics in passenger and cargo transportation.
  3. Human health and life support: Perseverance is equipped with the MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) instrument, a technology that will test the conversion of carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. This can be used for medicine, disaster preparedness and response and environmental remediation applications.
  4. Optical technologies: The phone camera was developed thanks to previous NASA missions. Now, the Perseverance rover has a new optical technology in the form of Mastcam-Z, which can zoom in, focus and take 3D pictures and video at high speed to allow detailed examination of distant objects.
  5. Instruments and sensors: Another instrument equipped in the Perseverance is PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry), which identifies chemical elements at a tiny scale. PIXL also has a camera that takes super close-up pictures of rock and soil textures. It can see features as small as a grain of salt. In addition, Perseverance has RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment) to see geologic features under the surface with ground-penetrating radar. All these technologies can be used in various industries such as mining and also for advanced medical imaging.

Space missions are often seen as beneficial to just space explorations. However, as previous missions have shown, the technologies developed are also instrumental for us here on Earth and we can still expect more advancements as we go further into space.

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