Searching For Ancient Life On Mars With Motiv

(Pasadena, California – March 1, 2022)

Mars is red and rocky, with an ice-cold atmosphere and dust storms that can cover the entire surface. At first glance, the planet named after the ancient Roman God of War seems like an inhospitable place. But as recent missions by NASA are discovering, that may not necessarily be the case. In fact, Mars may have once held life, the remnants of which could help the future of space exploration.

In 2020, NASA sent Perseverance, their newest Mars rover, to probe rocks and search red dust for evidence of past life on the Red Planet, which will eventually prepare for human exploration of Mars. But NASA isn’t reaching these milestones alone: Carrying a robotic arm and other technology designed and built by Motiv Space Systems, Perseverance will use its technology to characterize the planet’s geology and past climate to help NASA reach new conclusions about potential life on Mars.

As a key objective for this mission, Perseverance’s (lovingly nicknamed Percy) astrobiology work includes searching for signs of ancient Martian microbial life. Percy will be the first rover to collect and cache rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) on Mars, which will ultimately be sent back to Earth for further analysis – and possibly confirmation of past life. Already, closeups of Martian rocks have yielded a variety of colors, sizes of grains in the sediment, and even the presence of “cement” between the grains – providing important clues about the formation history, water flow and possible Martian environments.

How Motiv Is Helping
With the most capable planetary arm to date aboard the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, Motiv’s innovative technology is helping NASA reach new conclusions and discoveries. Stretching over two meters long with five finely tuned joints, the arm deploys special instrumentation for the forensic inspection of past life on Mars. The arm also retrieves and caches core samples to bring back to Earth for further studying. Other Motiv technology aboard Percy includes the following:

Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z Zoom and Focus Mechanism
Sitting just below the instrument shell of Perseverance’s mast, Motiv built the Mastcam-Z, the focus and zoom mechanisms that allow for vivid HD video of the Mars exploration campaign. The Mastcam-Z is the first advanced stereoscopic, high-definition video is available via zoom-capable cameras. These cameras contain several optical moving groups that allow for accurately capturing imagery on Mars.

Mars 2020 6-DOF Force Torque Sensor
As part of the robotic arm for NASA JPL’s Mars 2020 Mission, Motiv’s revolutionary 6-Degree-of-Freedom force-torque sensor works over a wide temperature range – perfect for Mars’ frigid temperatures.

Mars 2020 Mastcam-Z Filter Wheel
Integrated specifically for its mission to Mars on JPL’s 2020 rover, this ultra-light filter wheel contains eight optical elements and is capable of withstanding the environmental conditions on Mars.

Even after years of investigation and missions, the Red Planet has kept its many secrets. But as Perseverance discovers and searches with its advanced tech, Mars may not keep those secrets for much longer. The more we can gather geological details about the early days of Mars and how Mars formed, the more we’ll be able to expand the potential for finding evidence of life. So if you’ve dreamt of being part of the team searching for ancient life on Mars, join in the spirit with this downloadable poster.

Learn more about the technology Motiv built for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, including pictures of the robotic arm, Mastcam-Z, force-torque sensor, and filter wheel.

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