NASA’s next rover is halfway to the afterlife.
The Mars 2020 rover Persistence, which launched on July 30, has now traveled 146 miles (235 million kilometers) in deep space – half the total needed to reach the Red Planet, members of the mission’s team said on Tuesday (October 27th).
“While I don’t think there will be a cake, especially since most of us work from home, it’s still a pretty clean stage,” said Julie Kangas, a mission navigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California. said in a statement on Tuesday. “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”
Connected: NASA Mars Mars Perseverance mission in photos
The 28-mile (45 km) wide Jezero, where Perseverance will touch on Feb. 18, has hosted a lake and river delta in the ancient past. The car-sized rover will detail the area’s geology and climate and look for possible signs of long-dead life, among other tasks.
Permanence will also collect and cache several dozen samples from Martian terrain for future return to Earth. The return campaign, a joint effort by NASA and the European Space Agency, can bring this precious material to Mars here as early as 2031.
In addition, Perseverance carries on your stomach a little a helicopter called Ingenuity, a demonstration vessel designed to help pave the way for extensive rotorcraft exploration of Mars in the future.
The rover reached the exact half of its interplanetary journey – 235.4 million kilometers – at 16:40 EDT (2040 GMT) on Tuesday, NASA officials said. But Permanence takes a curved path to Mars, so the spaceship is not halfway between the two planets while the space crow is flying.
“In a straight line, the Earth is 26.6 million miles away [42.7 million km] behind Perseverance and Mars is 17.9 million miles [28.8 million km] in front, “Kangas said.
The perseverance team did not sit on their hands during the current “phase of the cruise” of the mission. In the last two weeks, for example, team members have inspected four different rover instruments. Everything is working well, NASA officials said.
“If it is part of our spacecraft and electricity is flowing through it, we want to confirm that it continues to function properly after launch,” said Keith Como, also JPL’s deputy chief engineer, in the same statement.
“Between these checks – along with charging the rover’s batteries and the Helicopter brand, uploading files and sequences for surface operations and planning and executing trajectory adjustment maneuvers – our plate is full until landing,” Como said.
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Mike Wall is the author of Searching There (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate). Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.