NASA is heading back to Mars with a new rover searching for signs of past life - 60 Minutes - CBS News
Jun 01, 2020 3 mins, 8 secs

Bobby Braun: Perseverance is really our first astrobiology mission to Mars, where we're actually searching not just for environments that may have once been habitable but for evidence of the life that may have existed there in the past.

Anderson Cooper: Has anyone ever brought back something from Mars?

Anderson Cooper: So that's the rover right there.

It's the most sophisticated, most capable vehicle that we've ever actually put on the surface of Mars?

Perseverance is equipped with 25 cameras, two audio mics, and seven scientific instruments, many of them specifically designed to detect faint traces of ancient life on the surface of Mars.

But the rover will also be testing out new technologies that astronauts may someday need to explore Mars and return back to Earth.

It actually makes oxygen on Mars from the atmosphere for life support obviously, but also that oxygen is useful as an oxidizer for fuel for the return trip for those astronauts.

Anderson Cooper: Do you know that it is possible to make oxygen on Mars.

But we're going to take it to Mars and show that we can do it.

Anderson Cooper: I know this isn't the most important thing, but the hubcaps are really cool. .

The rover also has this small helicopter which it can drop on the surface of Mars.

We're able to keep the sample very clean because this is really the only part of the spacecraft that the sample will touch, which is very important for the science of the mission?

Katie Stack Morgan: That's right.

Katie Stack Morgan: No, it's exciting. .

Katie Stack Morgan worked as a geologist on the Curiosity rover mission and is a deputy project scientist for Perseverance.

Anderson Cooper: If there was life on Mars, how long ago was it.

Katie Stack Morgan: So we think it was probably at least 3 billion years ago on the surface.

Katie Stack Morgan: We're thinking microbial life, very simple, single cell organisms-- that kind of thing.

Katie Stack Morgan: Well, they can take all kinds of forms, you know, small tubes and little circular fossils, micro-fossils.

Katie Stack Morgan: We would be absolutely delighted to discover something that looked like that.

Katie Stack Morgan: To know that in this particular spot on Mars we had water here, enough water, and for long enough to fill this 30-mile diameter crater-- is a big deal for us and says that this is a special place.

The rock samples perseverance collects will most likely be left on the surface of Mars.

Anderson Cooper: We're in the midst of a pandemic-- obviously an economic crisis, is sending a rover to Mars, is that a good idea at this time? ?

Anderson Cooper: Is it a little weird driving the rover from your one-bedroom apartment.

Anderson Cooper: If Kiley, like, jumped on your lap or hit one of the keys, would the rover fly off a cliff.

Anderson Cooper: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I would imagine you-- you're spending a good amount of your mind every day on Mars.

Anderson Cooper: Do you see this as a race to find evidence of life.

Katie Stack Morgan: I see it more as-- we're all working together to answer this question.

Anderson Cooper: If in fact ultimately-- it turns out that there was microbial life on Mars billions of years ago, I mean, it's cool.

Katie Stack Morgan: The idea that we would find evidence of life that wasn't on our own planet, alien life would show that you know, it can occur in other places and that there are other forms of life

Anderson Cooper: If there's microbial life, there's no reason there couldn't be a higher form of life or a different form of life

Katie Stack Morgan: That's right

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