Yesterday, February 18, Perseverance, NASA’s newest rover, landed safely on Mars.
It took the rover seven months to reach the Red Planet where it will spend at least one Mars year (two Earth years) to fulfil its mission.
Miss my landing? Catch the highlights below.
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) February 19, 2021
What is Perseverance?
Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover the American organization has ever sent to the Red Planet.
It cost NASA almost $3 billion to design, develop and launch.
This landing is the latest success in a series of fails and success during the Mars exploration mission. The mission has been unfolding for the past sixty years of relentless work with the sole purpose of finding whether or not Mars could one day be a home away from home for us, humans.
Mars exploration began in the late 1960s.
In the first stage of the Mars exploration mission, NASA launched several spacecraft which successfully carried out flybys.
Then, during the 1970s, the mission entered the next stage of placing artificial satellites in the orbit of the Red Planet.
In the 1990s, NASA designed and launched landers like the Pathfinder and the Viking rovers.
The 2000s ushered in not only a new century but a high-technology stage of the human exploration of Mars. Going from orbiting Mars to exploring the planet’s surface is a great engineering feat. Rovers Spirit and Opportunity had far greater mobility than the Pathfinder and carried a sophisticated set of instruments to search for evidence of liquid water that may have been present in the planet’s past.
“Every time we do a launch or we do a landing, we get two plans. One plan is the one we want to do, and then there’s that second plan.” – #NASAScience‘s @Dr_ThomasZ celebrates a successful #CountdownToMars landing by ripping up the contingency plan. pic.twitter.com/pexxK5a07d
— NASA (@NASA) February 18, 2021
The Perseverance rover’s mission is to seek signs of ancient life by exploring the landing site and gather rock and soil samples that scientists could analyze in 2031.
The robot is 3 meters long and 2 meters tall. It is fitted with an autopilot for avoiding hazards and a set of sensors for gathering data during the landing. The rover drives faster in challenging terrain than previous rovers thanks to a new autonomous navigation system. Its system is powered by a generator that uses the heat from the natural decay of plutonium-238 to generate
Perseverance rover is taking the exploration of an alien planet surface one step further. The robot carries seven instruments to conduct unprecedented science and test new technology on the Red Planet.
7 high-tech instruments for exploring the Martian surface
Mastcam-Z is an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. The instrument also determines the mineralogy of the Martian surface and assists with rover operations.
SuperCam is an instrument that provides imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy at a distance.
3. PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry)
PIXL is an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and a high-resolution imager that permit more detailed detection and analysis of chemical elements than ever before.
4. SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals)
SHERLOC is the first UV Raman spectrometer to fly to the surface of Mars. It provides fine-scale imaging and mapping of mineralogy and organic compounds.
5. MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment)
MOXIE is a technology demonstration that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. If successful, MOXIE’s technology could be used by future astronauts on Mars to burn rocket fuel for returning to Earth.
6. MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer)
MEDA is a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and dust size and shape.
7. RIMFAX (The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment)
RIMFAX is a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimetre-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.
Attached to Perseverance’s belly came to Mars another piece of high-tech, Ingenuity.
Ingenuity is a helicopter the size of a chihuahua that will test powered flight on another world for the first time.
Developed in collaboration with AeroVironment, a drone company, Ingenuity features four specially made carbon-fibre blades, that spin many times faster than a passenger helicopter on Earth.
Why? Because the Mars atmosphere is 99% less dense than Earth’s which makes it difficult for the helicopter to achieve enough lift.
The helicopter has innovative solar cells, batteries, and other components. Ingenuity is designed to perform several activities autonomously, with no help from its human operator like keeping warm in the minus 130 degrees Martian cold nights or charging itself during the day.
Good luck, Perseverance! Fly safely, Ingenuity!
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