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


A technician works on a component of Rocket Lab's Electron rocket ahead of the launch on the Mahia ...
NICK PERRY Associated Press

NASA hopes New Zealand launch will pave way for moon landing

The mission came together relatively quickly and cheaply for NASA, with the total mission cost put at $32.7 million.
2 days ago
BYU competes in URC....
Amie Schaeffer

BYU students compete in a contest that’s out of this world

A team of BYU engineering students placed in the top ten in the University Rover Challenge. The competition hosted students from 10 countries.
23 days ago
supermoon lunar eclipse map...
Curt Gresseth

Be over the moon because total lunar eclipse coming Sunday to Utah

Patrick Wiggins, NASA solar system ambassador to Utah, explains what a total lunar eclipse is and when it can be witnessed Sunday night in Utah -- provided the skies are clear.
2 months ago
This Sept. 24, 2020 photo shows the major parts of the IRIS radio that the Space Dynamics Laborator...
Waverly Golden

Utah State University helps NASA with space exploration

NASA is launching a new mission in 2025 and Utah State University is helping them by building space-based radios.
2 months ago
(A testing site operated by Nomi Health across the street from UDOH headquarters.  Photo: Paul Nels...
Paul Nelson

Federal health officials investigating Utah-based company over COVID-19 testing

A Utah-based company is being investigating for claims of substandard conditions at COVID-19 testing sites.
3 months ago
radio circle...
Ashley Strickland, CNN

Mysterious ‘odd radio circles’ seen in space, new image shows

Astronomers found the odd radio circles using the Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope, operated by Australia's national science agency CSIRO, or Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, two years ago.
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Follow @ikeyospe...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
Utah scientists and professors excited about Perseverance Rover landing