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Astrophysicist discusses how Mars rover can lead to human exploration

National Science Foundation astrophysicist Joe Pesce told Hill.TV that the launching of the new rover Perseverance to explore Mars is a necessary step to eventual human exploration.

“Mars has a very thin atmosphere – it requires quite extensive technology just to come in and land,” he said. “The technology that we saw demonstrated on Perseverance will be used in the future.”

NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars earlier this month to examine the surface and search for any signs that life once existed on the planet.

Pesce said studying areas on Mars that appear to have had water will help scientists understand the planet’s surface makeup and geology.

“I can’t stress enough just the exploration quality of what’s happening here,” he said. “We as humans want to know what’s going on, and Mars in the past was probably very similar to Earth. So understanding Mars helps us understand Earth better as well.”

Pesce added that after researchers test the technology to ensure it is working as intended, the rover can start collecting and storing samples in the coming weeks for future missions to take back to Earth.

“It’s always better to be able to study things in a laboratory, even though the robots are really quite capable on the surface of Mars,” Pesce said.