Perseverance rover will use powerful X-rays to search for life on Mars

Perseverance rover will use powerful X-rays to search for life on Mars


The Perseverance rover, or Perseverance, is currently en route to Mars. According to the schedule outlined by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), on February 18, 2021, he will land on the surface of the Red Planet, after which he will look for signs of life.

For these purposes, the rover, among other things, will use the PIXL X-ray fluorimetric spectrometer – a small device about the size of a breakfast container mounted at the end of a two-meter robotic arm.

Almost every mission that has landed on Mars, from the Viking lander to the Curiosity rover, has been equipped with some kind of X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. One of the main differences between the PIXL and its predecessors is its ability to scan rocks with a powerful, precisely focused X-ray beam to detect where and how much chemicals are distributed.

The PIXL X-ray is so narrow that it can detect particles the size of a grain of salt. This allows us to very accurately associate the chemicals we detect with specific textures in the rock.“Said Abigail Allwood, PIXL Principal Investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Rock textures will be an important factor in deciding which rock samples from the Perseverance sample on Mars should be returned to Earth.

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