When you see images of the surface of Mars, it looks a lot like deserts here on Earth. It’s dry, dusty, and barren, and on Earth we associate that kind of environment with extreme heat. On Mars, things are the opposite. The planet’s distance from the Sun combined with its thin atmosphere and the complete lack of surface water or vegetation means that it does not retain heat very well and leads to cold surface temperatures.
In a new post on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program website, the space agency reveals the first temperature readings sent by its new Perseverance rover. The rover has been on the planet for over a month and has had to endure ridiculously cold weather during that time. Never approaching the freezing mark, daily temperatures range from a cold high of -7.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-22 ° C) to a low of -117.4 ° F (-83 ° C). Yes, you would not want to visit.
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NASA is very interested in the climate of Mars for some pretty obvious reasons. Manned missions to the Red Planet have been widely discussed, and while NASA hasn’t set any plans in stone, the space agency has flipped the idea that it might be possible to send humans to the planet sometime in the 2030s. With that in mind, understanding weather is incredibly important, and the most vital part of it is temperature.
NASA now has three “weather stations” on Mars at different locations. The Mars InSight lander provides temperature and other data, the Curiosity rover can also relay atmospheric conditions and temperature, and now the Perseverance rover offers a third data point every time the space agency wants to check how the temperatures of the space are changing. planet.
At Perseverance, atmospheric data is collected by the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), which can be turned on whenever NASA wants to collect climate data. MEDA was first turned on the day after the rover landed and collected information for about half an hour. Since then, it has collected more readings and relayed them to scientists on Earth as the rover waits for its little companion, the Mars Ingenuity helicopter, to begin its flight tests.
The rover will spend about a month in the area around the helicopter, providing observations of the aircraft’s progress toward achieving human-powered flight on another planet for the first time. Once this is done, the rover can begin its scientific explorations of Mars in earnest and NASA can decide which features of the Jezero crater it wants to investigate first. The mission will also include sample collection, with the rover snatching material from the surface and preparing it to be collected at a later date.
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Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in virtual reality, wearable devices, smartphones, and future technology. Most recently, Mike served as a technology editor at The Daily Dot and has been featured in USA Today, Time.com, and many other print and web media. His love of reporting is second only to his addiction to games.