Why I'll be sweating out seven minutes of the Mars mission Opinion by Don Lincoln Updated 12:39 PM ET, Wed February 17, 2021 The aeroshell containing NASA's Perseverance rover guides itself towards the Martian surface as it descends through the atmosphere in this illustration. Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. He is the author of several science books for general audiences, including the best-selling audio book "The Theory of Everything: The Quest to Explain All Reality." He also produces a series of science education videos. Follow him on Facebook. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely his. View more opinion articles on CNN. (CNN)In the depths of space, a speeding projectile races away from Earth and toward a date with destiny. A NASA spacecraft holding a robot with the noble name Perseverance is en route to Mars. Perseverance will explore the Martian surface, tasked with looking for evidence of Martian life and collecting samples that researchers hope will one day be returned to Earth for analysis. The discovery of life that evolved on a planet other than Earth would change humanity's understanding of its place in the cosmos. The last time such a paradigm-shifting advance occurred was in 1610, when Galileo first saw the moons of Jupiter, proving that the Earth (and, by extension, humanity) isn't at the center of the universe. And, since our celestial neighbor once hosted liquid water, it's an excellent location to look for ancient life. Exploration is what humanity does. It's in our nature. We've explored our planet and one day we hope to leave Earth to first explore the solar system, and then the stars. But first we must learn how. And if Perseverance is successful and finds evidence for ancient Martian life, it will tell us something enormous about the universe waiting for us.