This story is part of, our series exploring the red planet.
July has been. The left Earth for the Red Planet on July 19 and China’s Tianwen-1, containing a trio of robots, . Now it’s NASA’s turn, and it’s also sending more robot explorers to the red planet: and a helicopter, known as Ingenuity.
Ingenuity is a technical demonstration that aims to be the first vehicle to achieve power flight on another planet. Perseverance has a bigger, bolder mission – it can forever change our understanding of the cosmos. It will hunt for signs of past life on the red planet.
The dry, dusty Mars we know today was very different in the deep past. Humanity’s latest rover is to make a linear for an area of Mars that was once home to a lake, a perfect place to look for signs of ancient microbes.
Since Sojourner in 1997, NASA has sent a succession of increasingly sophisticated explorers with wheels to Mars. Endurance is the latest and greatest and in July 2020 it will embark on an epic journey across space.
On a mission
will do much more than capture amazing images of Mars. These are some of the most important mission goals:
- Look for signs of ancient microbial life.
- Collect Mars and dust samples for later return to Earth.
- Deliver an experimental helicopter.
- Study Mars’ climate and geology.
- Demonstrate technology for future Mars missions.
The mission is planned to last for at least one Martian year, which works for about 687 days on Earth (it takes longer for Mars to orbit the sun). However, NASA has a good orbital record in expanding its robotic missions from Mars. We can look at the long-lived opportunities and curiosities as role models for this.
, Endurance is now . NASA has postponed the event several times since the original July 17. The delays are not yet an issue as the open period for launch extends until 15 August. NASA will stream the rover’s broadcast live.
When: July 30th
Where: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Rocket: United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V
The window is important. “Due to the relative positions between Earth and Mars relative to each other, launch opportunities occur only every 26 months,” NASA said in a release in June 2020. If this window is missing, NASA would have to wait until September 2022 for the next shot. The space agency will do everything to ensure that Perseverance takes off in time.
NASA Perseverance rover ready to explore wild Mars
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As long as the rover starts sometime within the specified time period, it will have the same arrival date: February 18, 2021. The landing process will include some of the most upsetting minutes of the entire mission.
Endurance will have to try a new method that NASA hopes will deliver it as close to its targeted landing site as possible. NASA calls this the “Range Trigger” technology and it is about deploying the parachutes at exactly the right time.
“If the spacecraft exceeded its landing target, the parachute would have spread earlier,” NASA said. “If it came under the target, the parachute would spread later, after the spacecraft flew a little closer to the target.”
Earth observers can look forward to an unprecedented view of entry, descent and landing process. The mission is equipped with cameras and a microphone to capture all the excitement and stress as NASA tries to land endurance gently on the surface of Mars.
is located just north of the equator of Mars and was once home to a river delta. That history of water makes it a great place to look for signs of past microbial life. Sounds like the perfect landing place for a science lab on wheels.
“The landing site in the Jezero crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms dating back as far as 3.6 billion years old that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” Thomas Zurbuchen told NASA when the site was announced in 2018.
The car-sized Perseverance rover looks quite similar to its predecessor, the Curiosity, but also represents a lot of technological advances since the Curiosity was designed. Here are the numbers:
Length: 10 feet (3 meters)
Weight: 2 260 lbs (1,025 kg)
wheel: Six aluminum wheels with titanium spokes
Top speed: Almost 0.1 miles per hour (152 meters per hour)
Endurance is loaded with seven instruments selected to help it achieve its mission goals. You can get a full investigation from NASA, but here are some highlights:
Mastcam-Z The camera system mounted on the rover’s mast corresponds to the eyes of a head. According to NASA, its main task is “to take high-resolution video, panoramic color and 3D images of the Martian surface and functions in the atmosphere with a zoom lens to magnify distant targets.” The mast ridge will be our main window towards the Jezero crater.
MOXIE: The Mars oxygen resource use experiment is one of the ways endurance helps prepare people to go to Mars. This instrument is designed to create oxygen from the carbon dioxide atmosphere. This ability will be necessary to help future human explorers breathe, but it would also help us propel rocket propellants into place. It is a necessary step to bring our Mars astronauts back to Earth after their mission.
SuperCam: When you assemble a camera, laser and spectrometers, you get the SuperCam, an instrument that helps look for organic compounds, an important part of the hunt for signs of past microbial life. “It can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 7 meters,” NASA said.
Sherloc: “Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals” or Sherloc, as the instrument is affectionately known, will search for signs of life on the red planet. The instrument and its companion camera (nicknamed Watson) can take microscopic images of Mars and analyze them. Sherloc is equipped with a laser that can fire at the surface, and can measure chemicals found in the ground and rock with a technique called spectroscopy.
Helicopter on board
“Let’s send a helicopter to Mars” may sound a little far-fetched, but NASA does it anyway., a small helicopter designed to operate under the challenging conditions of the red planet, are all set in the rover’s belly where it will embark on the journey.
Ingenuity is a high-risk technology demonstration with a high reward. It will hang under the rover for a few months until NASA finds a suitable place to distribute it. Endurance will drop it on the Martian surface and then move away.
The helicopter will make the first attempt to fly another planet. NASA hopes that Ingenuity will rise and become a model for a new way of exploring other worlds.
Check out this video for more on how this little hacker can change the way we approach space exploration.
Join their siblings
NASA currently has two machines operating on the surface of Mars, the stationary InSight lander and the Mars rover Curiosity. InSight is located in a region called Elysium Planitia, a large plain area. Curiosity cruises around the Gale crater, a giant ditch with a massive mountain inside. Endurance will be scoping out a completely different part of the planet as it continues NASA’s legacy of Mars’ exploration.
The last time we had two working rovers on Mars was 2018 whendue to the effects of a global dust storm. Perseverance will not have the same problem as opportunity. Like Curiosity, it uses a nuclear power source that does not require sunlight to keep it running.
“Explore as one”
Perseverance will be far from the earth, but it will carry poignant reminders of its home planet. Over 10.9 million people signed up to have their names traveled by rover. The names are etched on small silicon chips that NASA installed on the rover on an aluminum plate under a protective shield.
The plate also has an illustration of the earth, our sun and Mars. Hidden in the sun’s rays is.
ONEand their efforts to help humanity during the coronavirus pandemic. This plate contains an illustration of a snake wrapped around a pole with the earth at the top.
These names and messages are a reminder that NASA’s robot explorers never really travel alone. Perseverance is the culmination of years of effort from NASA, but it is also an emissary for humanity, an extension of our curiosity and sense of wonder and a little earth on Mars.