Mars Rover Reveals Profit Opportunities
“Touchdown confirmed,” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission control at 3:55 p.m. ET last Thursday… “Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the sands of past life.”
In that exact moment, the six-wheeled Perseverance became NASA’s fifth robotic rover to explore the mysterious red planet, landing inside the Jezero Crater, which is believed to have once been a massive lake.
Perseverance’s first batch of images are quite remarkable, revealing a landscape of rocks that are strangely perforated with tiny holes.
NASA’s brand-new, fully updated rover is equipped with a small helicopter, too.
Needless to say, my expectations for this latest mission are high.
Still, considering that Perseverance’s price tag is expected to run as high as $2.7 billion, many taxpaying Americans are wondering if the funds would’ve been better spent on earthly projects — i.e., enhancing border security, improving the power grid, protecting against wildfires, upgrading ventilation systems in schools or ensuring election integrity.
Given the nation’s fragile psyche, I believe there is some wisdom in such thoughts.
Yet they’re also a bit shortsighted.
As I reported here last month, “The true value in developing space technologies is that they foster healthier, safer and richer life experiences for humanity.”
A quick teardown of Perseverance’s main components easily proves my point.
Take Perseverance’s sophisticated camera and imaging systems, for example.
From hazard avoidance cameras… to navigation cameras… to science cameras…. all told, NASA equipped Perseverance with 25 imaging devices and two microphones, many of which have already been used during last week’s landing… like the “up look” cameras that tracked the parachute’s deployment and the “down look” camera that gauged the rover’s descent.
Another camera, “SuperCam,” fires laser pulses at mineral targets over 20 feet away from the rover. Accurate to areas smaller than 1 millimeter, the laser’s function is to vaporize rocks in order to establish their elemental composition.
Instead of laser pulses, Perseverance’s “PIXL” camera uses X-ray fluorescence to detect chemical elements.
“Mastcam-Z” is a powerful twin-camera mounted on the rover’s outer deck, “providing a 3-D view similar to what human eyes would see, only better,” reports NASA.
The sole purpose of “CacheCam,” located inside the underbelly of Perseverance, is to observe the collection of samples taken from the planet’s surface.
Armed with spectrometers and a laser, “SHERLOC’s” job is to take extreme close-ups of especially interesting Mars sites being studied by scientists.
Collectively, Perseverance’s next-generation imaging system makes this the most exciting Mars mission to date. Yet innovations in camera science — especially where lasers are concerned — aren’t relegated to celestial bodies only.
Plenty of earthly industries stand to benefit from Perseverance’s optical innovations, as well — namely, robot guidance systems, automated metrology, autonomous vehicles, advanced ophthalmology, drones and UAVs, industrial farming, robotic surgery, security and surveillance and medical diagnostics. (I underlined three of my favorite niches of investment for 2021.)
And cameras represent only one of seven primary rover systems.
I’m keeping my eye out for investment opportunities in this space. I’ll keep you updated about what I find.
We haven’t even addressed Perseverance’s microprocessors, battery science, mobility technology (wheels and legs), robotics arm, communications system (antennas and internet connection) and lightweight composite materials… which will also help to evolve industries and expand global GDP.
Bottom line, Perseverance might not be able to get all of our children back in school sooner… or erase the damage left behind by Texas’ grid failure… or help restore the trust of small-business owners decimated by lockdowns… but the downstream effect of the rover’s innovation will pay off in the long run.
Onward and upward,