During the Apollo astronauts’ landing on the moon, they were equipped with retroreflectors devices, which are small arrays of mirrors. The purpose of these devices was to enable the scientists stationed on the Ground to target lasers at them and analyze the duration of time taken for the shafts of light to travel and be reflected back to Earth. With this maneuver, the NASA scientists were able to acquire exceptionally correct dimensions of the moon’s trajectory and outline and how it altered marginally centered on Earth’s gravitational pull. The research with these retroreflectors is still functional and used to date and the same mission on mars.
The perseverance rover, scheduled to land on Mars by 18th February 2021, will have onboard the palm-size Laser Retroreflector Array (LaRA). The agency’s InSight lander is called Laser Retroreflector for InSight (LaRRI). A retroreflector will also be on board of the ESA (European Space Agency) Exomars rover planned to be launched in 2022.
With the new devices. The first of their kind to be launched for Mars research will enable future exploration of the planet. In the future, the reflectors will allow the scientist to conduct laser ranging research to determine the locus of a rover on the surface. These devices will also help check Einstein’s theory of overall relativity and ensure precise landing on the red planet. The laser retroreflectors, which are shiny, point-like position markers are maintenance-free and straightforward an, according to Simone Dell’Agnello, will offer services for decades.
The devices’ working mechanism is the same as that of bike reflectors, where they bounce backlight to the source’s direction. The Perseverance’s LaRA is a 2-inch-wide dome spotted with half-inch holes encompassing crystal cells. The cells are equipped with three reflected faces placed at the right angle to allow the light’s redirection in identical course as the source.
The main objective of the Perseverance undertaking on Mars is astrobiology, which will include the hunt for marks of primordial bacterial life on the planet. The nomad will be equipped in such a way that it will characterize the planet’s environment and geology, paving the path for the human probe. This will be the initial operation to accumulate and reserve Martian rock and regolith (fragmented gravel and dust). Follow-up missions, which are still considered by NASA in collaboration with the European Space Agency, will see the space agency send a spacecraft to Mars to assemble these accumulated samples.