Utah scientists and professors excited about Perseverance Rover landing

Feb 18, 2021, 7:43 PM | Updated: Feb 19, 2021, 11:02 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah scientists and professors will keep a close watch over the progress of NASA’s Perseverance Rover now that it has landed on Mars.

Several professors from Westminster College hosted a landing watch party over Zoom for the event. After the words “touchdown confirmed” were broadcast over NASA’s YouTube channel, you could see smiles going ear-to-ear on the individuals who attended the Zoom call.

Some of the attendees have been researching ancient microbiology found in Utah. While others have been creating possible ways to make Mars suitable for life. 

Westminster College Biology Professor Dr. Bonnie Baxter has a special interest in this mission. “This is pretty exciting. This is the first mission since the Viking missions in the 1970s that had a goal of looking for life,” according to Baxter.

Mission organizers decided to land on the Jezero Crater, which Baxter believes is an ancient closed-basin lake system that has dried up.

In other words, “At some time in its history, it had water in it and looked a bit like the Great Salt Lake,” Baxter said.

NASA found small trickles of water near this site, and Baxter reported if water moves on Mars it has to be extremely salty, otherwise it would freeze. It’s the salt content on Mars that excites Baxter. 

“Microorganisms that live in salty places can survive being dried up inside a salt crystal and can last for millions of years,” she said. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab used samples collected by students at Westminster College to mimic what Perseverance could find on Mars.

To get samples back, NASA is teaming with the European Space Agency, ESA, to make a rover specific for this mission.

“The little, miniature rover will go and collect the samples that Perseverance is digging out of the ground,” Baxter relayed. Once the samples are collected, the fetch rover will load them into a rocket to fire back to Earth. 

Several news outlets are reporting the Perseverance Rover samples will eventually land in a west desert of Utah, likely at the Dugway Testing Grounds. However, Baxter reported that won’t happen for a few years.


Today’s Top Stories


space radio...
Elizabeth Weiler

USU making history with a radio entering the lunar orbit

LOGAN, Utah — Utah State University has made history by being the first laboratory to successfully send a a radio, created by Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) into the orbit of earths moon.  The deep space radio named Iris, named after the Greek mythological goddess, daughter of Thaumas and Electra and messenger of the gods, made its […]
22 hours ago
In this image provided by NASA, the Earth and its moon are seen from NASA's Orion spacecraft on Mon...
Jackie Wattles, CNN

NASA’s Orion reaches record-breaking distance from Earth

NASA confirmed that Orion had reached the midpoint of its uncrewed mission around the moon — about 270,000 miles (434,523 kilometers) from Earth.
2 days ago
If you're cooking or eating a special dinner this week, you have something in common with our ancie...

How cooking food and gathering for feasts made us human

Scientists think learning to cook food was a big step for evolution, because it helped early humans fuel their bigger brains.
9 days ago
A therapy that reportedly delays the onset of Type 1 diabetes has been approved by the FDA....
Jen Christensen and Brenda Goodman CNN

FDA approves first treatment to delay onset of type 1 diabetes

The monoclonal antibody teplizumab from ProventionBio and Sanofi is given through intravenous infusion.
14 days ago
The Great Salt Lake is pictured with a receded water line...
Mark Jones

Water levels are too low for some Great Salt Lake sensors

KSL meteorologist Kevin Eubank says the Great Salt Lake is again at a historic low, and at least one sensor is no longer in the water.
15 days ago
Utah Girl Scouts win a NASA Sponsored essay contest and are awarded a Space Science badge that is f...
Aubri Wuthrich

Two Utah Girl Scouts win badge riding to the moon on Artemis 1

SALT LAKE CITY  — Two Utah Girl Scouts have received a badge that’s flying to the moon on Artemis 1 mission, which launched early Wednesday as part of a crewless spacecraft around the moon. Girl Scout Victoria Moore and Junior Girl Scout Karissa Amante  won “Girl Scouts to the Moon” essay contest. Girl Scouts of […]
15 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Utah scientists and professors excited about Perseverance Rover landing