Rover Perseverance
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Rover Perseverance, traces of Italy on Mars

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Last Updated on February 24, 2021 by Gaia Zol

The NASA robot has finally landed on the Red Planet, after 7-month journey. His eyes are made in Italy, in a laboratory in Frascati, Rome.

Rover Perseverance
An illustration of Rover Perseverance, via NASA/JPL-Caltech

LaRa, the micro-reflector of Rover Perseverance

The National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) built the LaRa in its laboratory of Frascati, in the Lazio region. It’s Italian excellence, for sure.

How it works

The micro-reflector acts like the robot’s eyes. It gives an accurate location of the Rover Perseverance, thanks to satellite connection. The apparatus connects with the satellites that orbit around Mars. Thanks to this link, it sends information to NASA. The micro-reflector measures the spacial environment, sending accurate data to researchers.

Because LaRa is lightweight and tiny, the robot it doesn’t need any repairs nor maintenance. So, it can efficiently work on Mars for decades.

Rover Perseverance
The first picture from Rover Perseverance, via ANSA

The name LaRa means “Laser retroflector Array,” the eyes indeed.

The Mars 2020 mission

The goal of this spacial mission is to analyze the planet’s life and possibilities. If there is life on Mars, the robot will find it. Furthermore, LaRa isn’t the only Italian excellence.

In fact, another one is researcher Teresa Fornaro. She is one of the 13 “Mars 2020 participating scientists” worldwide. Plus, the only representative from Italy. Fornaro assists in the interpretation of the data sent by Rover Perseverance. She will help understand if there are signs of life on Mars. That includes the information that LaRa sends. The micro-reflector sees and analyzes its environment. When it picks up data, it sends it to the researchers back on Earth.

Fornaro is one of them. From her work and analysis, we might find out if Mars is a valuable option. Perhaps survival is possible.

Surely, what’s possible is the excitement worldwide. In fact, the landing of Rover Perseverance had its audience.

Watch: NASA applauds as Rover Perseverance lands

Applause and a standing ovation as the robot gets to Mars. Guess who was there to watch it all. Indeed, Teresa Fornaro.

“Seeing the landing was emotional,” said the Italian researcher to La Repubblica, “success wasn’t granted. Now we can start with the real science, on Mar’s ground, starting with our investigations.”

In this case, every instrument and piece of equipment helps. Including the made in Italy LaRa, the Italian micro-reflector.

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