Legacy of Curiosity, driving Perseverance, soaring Ingenuity

First sample collecting rover lands on Mars, showcasing humanity’s undying desire to search for life

Angela Ide, Opinions Editor

The first high-resolution, color image to be sent back by the Hazard Cameras, also known as, Hazcams on the underside of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover after its landing on Feb. 18, 2021. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Somewhere out there, among the stars and deep darkness of space, lives the chance for old life to be found and new life to be discovered. This is one of the driving forces that keeps humanity reaching toward the stars. Even a global pandemic is powerless to dampen the dream of unfolding the mysteries of this universe that are just out of reach.

At 7 pm EST on Feb. 18, 2021, Perseverance, the first rover designed to collect soil samples and demonstrate technologies for further explorations and future human habitation, landed on Mars. Following in the treadmarks of NASA’s Curiosity rover, Perseverance will be searching for signs of ancient life and laying the foundation for future explorations.

“I got chills,” shared Dr. Carlos Arias, computer science assistant professor and computer science chair. “Look, that’s real, that’s not a sci-fi movie. That’s a machine that we actually built.”

Additionally, in coalition with Perseverance’s mission, according to NASA, Ingenuity,  “a small, autonomous aircraft … attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover” will be “surveying terrain from above.” This will be the first time that flight will be made possible in the thin Martian air, and this will provide a whole new lens for us to see our neighboring planet.

But, in the last year, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting so many important plans on hold, it seemed like scientific innovations would be as well. As the months have dragged on in isolation as we have drowned in our limitations, a sense of stalling has taken over life here on Earth.

In the six months since the rover’s launch on July 30, the world it left has changed so drastically. All the stay-at-home orders seemed like a very temporary inconvenience that would surely end with the summer’s heat. The world watched as the presidential elections neared, staring down the uncertain future that lay ahead; and most importantly, the world waited patiently as holiday after holiday was pushed onto video calls and mailed gifts while vaccines were being studied.

Wonderfully, that is another one of Perseverance’s successes. It has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that humans can come together to achieve great things, even when separated by


On February 18th, 2021 Members of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission cheer as the spacecraft lands on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“This crisis has given the opportunity for everyone to know that we have the tools to collaborate remotely,” says Arias, “I know teams that have been doing this for a while, but I also know of executives or directors or bosses in general that like to see people sitting in offices.” 

Outside of just general workspace challenges and remote connections, this last year has brought people together in whole new ways. “The whole situation helped boost a lot of scientific movement. Everybody in the world started to cooperate to find the vaccine,” Arias explains. This collaboration across fields of understanding, experts, and all over the world, is something that will continue to push advancement and discovery moving forward.

Fortunately, as all seasons do, a shift has been made and the world seems to be waking up once again. Vaccines are being administered, states and cities are slowly starting to reopen, and science has put new technology on Mars.

The dream of touching the Red Planet in so many new ways is still being fought for and achieved, despite the challenges it has faced. If that does not speak toward human resilience and determination, I doubt that anything ever will.

Just as we reached for the Moon in the middle of the Cold War, humanity is looking towards Mars as the future on Earth remains so uncertain. What Perseverance, Ingenuity and Curiosity are doing 128 million miles away may seem small and unimportant, but they stand for the strength, creativity, and wonder-filled awe that drives humanity to be the best it can be; even in the midst of our darker seasons.

So with pride, every man, woman, and child can look up at the night sky, gaze out into the wonderful abyss that stretches out in front of them, and hope. Each person can hold on to the fact that humanity has not stopped reaching for the stars and know that the universe is so much bigger things at work than a virus and we are just specks of dust in the grand scheme of things. With this in mind and in our hearts, every day can begin with the cheerful disposition that worlds continue to turn, humans continue to fight to be a part of it, one day soon we will find a way to live our lives freely once again.