NASA’s Perseverance rover is headed to Mars, the third spacecraft to be launched this month.
Perseverance, a robotic-wheeled vehicle designed to look for signs of past life on Mars, rose from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday at 7:50 a.m. Eastern time. The launch was delayed for a couple of weeks by a series of technical delays and overcoming the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, which required many of its engineers to work from home.
The rover’s destination is a crater, Jezero, which was once a lake in the northern hemisphere of Mars. Scientists believe it is a promising place where signs of ancient Martian life could be preserved if life on Mars ever existed.
The Atlas 5 rocket took the spacecraft away from Earth and on a trajectory to reach Mars in six and a half months. They are derived from the first launches in July by the United Arab Emirates and China. While perseverance remains to be seen, the three missions should reach the red planet at about the same time, in February.
For people at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who will be in charge of operating the mission during their trip to Mars, an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.2 provided a little more in the countdown. It didn’t affect the launch, but mission workers expressed surprise on Twitter.
A few hours after launch, NASA had trouble communicating with the spacecraft, but officers did not care. “It’s something we’ve seen before with other Mars missions,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a post-launch press conference.
The large radio dishes of the Deep Space Network that communicate with distant spacecraft through the solar system received the Perseverance radio signals loud and clear, in effect, too loud.
At the same time as Mr. Bridenstine was speaking, Matt Wallace, the deputy director of projects, received a text message that engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory had made adjustments that allowed the dishes to be fixed on the telemetry data.
What is the Perseverance rover?
Perseverance is a car-sized wheeled robot almost identical to NASA’s previous design, Curiosity, which landed in 2012. However, Perseverance is heading to a different location (a crater called Jezero that was once a lake) and he carried a different set of instruments. Curiosity was designed to look for livable environments and found signs of a freshwater lake. Perseverance is about going one step further and looking for evidence of past life you may have lived on Lake Jezero.
Perseverance also carries a couple of more fun than scientific devices: several cameras, which will record various views as the spacecraft approaches the atmosphere during the runway; and two microphones, which will be the first to record sounds on another planet.
He also carries an experimental helicopter.
Wait, a helicopter?
Yes, it’s called Ingenuity. The four-pound Marscopter is a technological experiment and, if it works, will be the first motorized flight from another planet. The rotors must rotate at 2,400 revolutions per minute to generate elevation in the thin atmosphere of Mars, somewhat percent dense on Earth to the surface.
How will the mission help future astronauts?
A couple of experiments on perseverance have nothing to do with past life research, but they could help future life on Mars: Earth astronauts.
One of the crucial supplies astronauts will need is oxygen, to breathe and as a rocket propellant.
The Mars Oxygen, or MOXIE, in situ resource utilization experiment will take molecules of carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere and divide them into oxygen atoms and carbon monoxide.
MOXIE will try to prove that it is possible on the surface of the red planet. But the amount of oxygen it could produce – less than an ounce per hour – is tiny.
“We’re just making enough oxygen to keep a small dog alive,” said Michael Hecht, MOXIE’s principal investigator.
But if the idea works, the technique could be used in the future on a much larger scale to fill a rocket. “So astronauts on a future mission to Mars could take off from Mars to return home,” he said.
Perseverance also carries samples of materials used in space spaces, mounted on a lens used to calibrate one of the rover’s instruments.
“When I send someone to Mars on my spaceship, I want to make sure it stays alive all the time,” said Amy Ross, one of NASA’s space suit designers during a press conference Tuesday.
With perseverance taking repeated action over a couple of years on Mars, “we can understand how our materials are maintained or not in this environment,” he said.
When will the mission arrive on Mars?
Perseverance will land on Mars on February 18 next year at 3:40 p.m. Eastern Time.
Every 26 months, Earth and Mars get closer to each other, allowing for the fastest and most efficient journey from Earth to Mars. If the launch doesn’t take place in mid-August, NASA should wait until the next opportunity, in 2022.
Where will Perseverance land and why is it going there?
Jezero crater was filled with water about 3.5 billion years ago when Mars was warmer and wetter. From orbit, a NASA spacecraft saw a dried-up river on one side of Jezero and an exit channel can be seen on the other side. You can see the sediments of a fan-shaped delta through which the river flowed into the crater. No one knows if anything would ever have lived on Mars, but if it did, Jezero would be a prime place to look, scientists decided.
Landing on Mars is difficult. The planet’s fine atmosphere is not thick enough to provide enough drag to slow down a spacecraft like Perseverance, which will reach more than 12,000 miles per hour. But the atmosphere is still thick enough to generate thousands of degrees of heat, complicating the task of slowing down perseverance before it sinks to the ground. NASA and other space agencies, just a few attempts to land, have ended up creating new craters on the surface of the red planet.
But NASA has successfully landed five consecutive landings. To increase the likelihood that the Perseverance rovel will be the sixth, NASA has made adjustments to the parachute that slows down the spacecraft when it reaches the Martian atmosphere. It has also improved the rover’s ability to identify a soft landing site.
What else is going on Mars this summer?
The UAE mission successfully took off on a Japanese rocket on July 20th.
The UAE’s space program is modest and its commitment to joining the ranks of countries that have arrived on Mars is part of an ambitious effort to inspire young emirates to pursue careers in science and technology.
The Hope spacecraft will orbit Mars for several years, helping scientists study the planet’s weather cycles.
China launched the second mission, Tianwen-1, on July 23rd.
The country’s space program has had several successes in recent years, including two itinerants that landed on Earth’s moon, as well as a couple of space stations deployed in orbit. But his previous attempt to reach Mars in 2011 was lost when the Russian rocket he was driving crashed and burned into Earth’s atmosphere.
The new Chinese mission includes an orbiter, a terrifier and a rover. While other countries have taken a gradual approach to visiting Mars: first an orbiter, then a landing craft, then a rover, China stresses that it will try to operate all of these components for the first time at once.
According to four scientists involved in the mission, the orbit will study Mars and its atmosphere for about a Martian year, or 687 days on Earth. In addition to two cameras, the spacecraft carries a surface radar, a detector to study the Martian magnetic field, and three other scientific instruments.
The rover will attempt to land in the Utopia Planitia region in the northern latitudes of the Martians. NASA’s Viking 2 mission took place there in 1976. Previous studies using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed that Utopia Planitia has a layer of water ice equivalent to that found in Lake Superior at Earth.
If it handles the dangerous Martian landing, the rover will use a mixture of cameras, ground-penetrating radar and other instruments to better understand the distribution of ground ice, which future human settlers on Mars could use to keep up. China’s mission is to last about 90 Martian days.
A fourth mission, the Russian-European rover Rosalind Franklin, was to launch this summer as well. But the technical hurdles, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, could not be overcome in time. It is now scheduled to launch in 2022.
What other spacecraft is Mars currently studying?
He’s doing a few people around the red planet.
Currently six orbiters study the planet from space. NASA sent three: the Mars Odyssey, launched in 2001; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, 2005; and MAVEN, who left Earth in 2013.
Europe has two spacecraft in orbit. Its Mars Express orbiter was launched in 2003, and in 2016 the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter was lifted, which is shared with Russia’s space program.
India operates the sixth spacecraft, the Mars Orbiter mission, also known as Mangalyaan, which launched in 2013.
Currently two American missions operate in the field. Curiosity has been on the move since 2012. Added to InSight, a terrifying stationary that has been studying Marsquakes and other interior properties on the red planet since 2018. A third U.S. mission, the Opportunity rover, expired on 2019 when a dust storm caused it. lose power.