The touch of NASA’s next rover is less than a month away.
The car-sized Perseverance rover, the core of NASA’s $ 2.7 billion Mars 2020 Mission, will land on February 18, beginning a new era of research on the Red Planet.
On that fateful day, a rocket-powered celestial crane will lower Permanence to the floor at a width of 28 miles (45 kilometers) Crater Lake, which hosted a lake and river delta billions of years ago. During its mission, Perseverance will search the Lake for signs of ancient life on Mars and collect and cache dozens of samples.
If all goes according to plan, these samples will be retrieved to Earth as early as 2031 by a joint campaign of NASA and the European Space Agency, as part of the first-ever effort to return samples from Mars.
Mars 2020 is historical in other ways as well. NASA has not been actively looking for signs of Martian life after the double Viking missions, launched in the mid-1970s. (The forerunner of perseverance, still productive Rover for curiosity, assesses the past habitability of Mars, but is not equipped to seek life itself.) And the journey to the Red Planet on the belly of Perseverance is a small helicopter called Ingenuity, which will try to become the first rotorcraft to ever fly in a world beyond Earth.
Persistence was also created to help pave the way for human exploration of Mars. For example, one of the rover’s instruments, called MOXIE (short for “Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment”), will generate oxygen from the carbon-dominated Martian atmosphere, a technology that, if magnified, can help our species establish itself on The Red Planet, NASA officials said. .
So there is something to look forward to after Perseverance hits the red finger. And NASA’s rover is not the only spacecraft to arrive on Mars next month. The first mission of the United Arab Emirates, an orbit named Hope, will reach Mars on February 9, if everything goes according to plan. This stage will be followed a day later by arrival of Tianwen-1, China’s first all-home experience on the Red Planet.
Tianwen-1 consists of an orbital pair and a landing rover pair. The orbiter will spend several months filming the designated landing site to prepare for the touchdown, which is expected to take place in May, Chinese space officials said.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow it on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.