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NASA launches the next rover: Everything you need to know about perseverance



The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, carrying the rover, rises from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel / Tribune News Service via Getty Images

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series that explores the red planet.

It was July an extremely busy month for Martian research robots, Most A sample of the UAE Hope left for Earth for the Red Planet on July 19 and the Chinese Tianwen-1, containing a trio of robots, followed shortly afterNow it’s NASA’s turn. On Thursday, it two robotic researchers launched flawlessly to the red planet: a next-generation rover known as Persistenceand a helicopter known as Ingenuity.

Ingenuity is a technological demonstration aimed at being the first vehicle to make a powerful flight to another planet. Perseverance has a bigger, bolder mission – it can change our understanding of space forever. He 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. Mankind’s newest rover makes a landmark on an area of ​​Mars that was once a lake, an ideal place to look for signs of ancient microbes.

Since Sojourner in 1997, NASA has sent a number of increasingly sophisticated wheeled explorers to Mars. Persistence is the newest and greatest and in July 2020 launched an epic space trip.

On a mission

perseverance will do much more than snap amazing images of Mars. These are some of the main goals of the mission:

  • Look for signs of ancient microbial life.
  • Collect samples of Martian rock and dust for later return to Earth.
  • Deliver an experimental helicopter.
  • Explore the climate and geology of Mars.
  • Demonstrate technology for future missions to Mars.

The mission is planned to last at least a year on Mars, which works about 687 days on Earth (it takes longer for Mars to orbit the sun). However, NASA has good experience in expanding its robotic missions to Mars. We can look at the long-standing Opportunity and Curiosity bikes as role models for this.

Hello, Mars

NASA has conducted extensive tests of the parachute system, which will reduce the persistence to Mars.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Rover’s arrival on Mars is scheduled for February 18, 2021. The landing process will include some of the most excruciating minutes of the entire mission.

Perseverance will try to test a new method that NASA hopes will deliver as close as possible to its target landing site. NASA calls this the “Range Trigger” technique, and it’s all about placing the parachutes at the right time.

“If the spacecraft were to skip the landing target, the parachute would have been deployed earlier,” NASA said. “If the target fell, the parachute would be positioned later after the spacecraft flew a little closer to its target.”

Earth observers can expect an unprecedented view of the process of entering, disembarking and landing. The mission is equipped with cameras and a microphone to capture all the excitement and stress as NASA tries to land the permanence gently on the surface of Mars.

Crater Lake

This image of the Marine Reconnaissance Orbit shows the delta of Crater Lake.

NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS / JHU-APL

Crater Lake is located just north of the equator of Mars and was once home to the Delta River. This history of water makes it a great place to look for signs of past microbial life. Sounds like the perfect place to land a science lab on wheels.

“The landing site at Crater Jezero offers geologically rich terrain, with terrestrial forms up to 3.6 billion years old that could answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology,” said Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA when the site was announced in 2018. ,

Vital statistics

The Perseverance-sized Rover looks a lot like its predecessor, the Curiosity, but it also represents a lot of advances in technology, as the Curiosity was designed. Here are the numbers:

Length: 10 feet (3 meters)
Weight: 2260 pounds (1025 kg)
wheels: Six alloy wheels with titanium spokes
Maximum speed: Just under 0.1 miles per hour (152 meters per hour)

Scientific tools

Rover Perseverance is equipped with tools that will be used to explore the crater Jezero on Mars.

NASA

Perseverance is charged with seven tools chosen to help him achieve his mission goals. You can get the full return from NASA, but here are a few highlights:

Mastcam-Z: The camera system mounted on the rover’s mast is equivalent to the eyes of the head. According to NASA, its main task is “to make high-resolution video, panoramic color and 3D images of the Martian surface and functions in the atmosphere with a magnified lens to magnify distant targets.” The mast will be our main window to the Jezero crater.

Moxie: The Mars Oxygen In-Situ resource experiment is one way perseverance prepares people to prepare for Mars. This instrument is designed to produce oxygen from the atmosphere of carbon dioxide. This ability will be needed to help future human researchers breathe, but it will also help us make rocket fuel right on site. This is a necessary step for the return of our Martian astronauts to Earth after their missions.

SuperCam: When you put a camera, laser and spectrometers together, you get SuperCam, a tool that will help you look for organic compounds, a key part of looking for signs of past microbial life. “It can identify the chemical and mineral composition of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 7 feet (7 meters),” NASA said.

Sherloc: “Scanning the habitat with Raman and luminescence for organic matter and chemicals” or “Sherlock”, as the instrument is known with tenderness, will look for signs of life on the red planet. The instrument and the accompanying camera (nicknamed Watson) are capable of making microscopic images of Mars and analyzing them. Equipped with a laser that can fire at the surface, Sherlock is able to measure the chemicals present in the soil and rocks using a technique known as spectroscopy.

Helicopter on board

The NASA Mars helicopter team is attaching a piece to the flight model in early 2019.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

“Let’s send a helicopter to Mars” may sound a little inflated, but NASA does it anyway. ingenuity, a small helicopter designed to operate in the challenging conditions of the red planet, is tucked away in the belly of the rover, where it will travel.

Ingenuity is a demonstration of high-risk, high-reward technology. It will hang under the rover for several months until NASA finds a suitable place to deploy it. Persistence will drop him on the surface of Martian and then move away.

The helicopter will make the first attempt with a powerful flight to another planet. NASA hopes that Ingenuity is rising and becoming a model for a new way to explore other worlds.

Watch this video for more information on how this little chopper can change the way we approach space exploration.


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Joining his brothers and sisters

NASA currently has two machines operating on the surface of Mars, the stationary InSight landing craft and the Rover Curiosity rover. InSight is located in a region called Elysium Planitia, a large plain. Curiosity revolves around Gale Crater, a giant ditch with a massive mountain inside. The permanence will cover a very different part of the planet as NASA’s legacy of Mars exploration continues.

The last time we had two functioning rovers on Mars was in 2018, when the Opportunity rover lost contact with home due to the impact of a global dust storm. Persistence will not have the same problems as Opportunity. Like Curiosity, it uses a nuclear power source that does not require sunlight to continue.


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“Study as one”

This sign contains the names of nearly 11 million people and carries a coded message.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

Perseverance will be far from Earth, but it will bring touching memories of its home planet. More than 10.9 million people have registered to travel with the rover through NASA’s public information program Send your name to MarsThe names are cut on small silicone chips that NASA installs on the rover on an aluminum plate under a protective shield.

The plate also bears an illustration of Earth, our sun and Mars. It is hidden in the sun’s rays the message “study as one”, written in Morse code,,

A a separate aluminum plate pays tribute to healthcare professionals and their efforts to support humanity during the coronavirus pandemic. This plate bears an illustration of a snake wrapped around a rod with the Earth at the top.

These names and messages are a reminder that NASA’s robotic researchers never travel alone. Perseverance is the culmination of NASA’s long-standing efforts, but it is also an emissary of humanity, an extension of our curiosity and astonishment, and a bit of Earth on Mars.


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