NASA Launches Perseverance Rover for Mars – Sky & Telescope

The launch of Perseverance. NASA/Joel Kowsky Now there are three.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket roared to life at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at present at 7:50 a.m. EDT / 11:50 UT, with NASA’s newest Mars mission, the Perseverance rover, aboard.

“The public wants to see the United States of America and our international partners do stunning things,” says NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine throughout an interview main as much as the launch. “We have a history of doing amazing things in the most challenging of times.”

Perseverance and the Centaur higher stage booster have been each injected straight right into a heliocentric orbit for a 7-month journey to the Red Planet. NASA’s worldwide Deep Space Network tracked the motion, reporting that Perseverance had phoned residence and was in good well being.

2020 is a “Mars year,” with three missions making the journey to the Red Planet forward of this October’s opposition, when Mars is closest to Earth. The different two missions have been the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Orbiter and China’s Tianwen 1 orbiter-lander-rover combo. Both of these missions launched earlier this month. A positive launch window comes round roughly each 26 months, providing a trajectory towards Mars with the least period of time and minimal gasoline expenditure.

Read in-depth protection of this yr’s Marsbound missions in Emily Lakdawalla’s article: “Three Missions Head for Mars.”

The Mars Perseverance rover within the clear room NASA / JPL-CaltechNow, the Perseverance mission enters a cruise section till February 18, 2021, when its trajectory brings the spacecraft in for a ballistic entry into the tenuous Martian ambiance over its touchdown website at Jezero Crater. The rover will then separate from its again shell, discard its warmth-defend, and deploy parachutes for its very personal “seven minutes of terror,” because it slows down for a touchdown on Mars.

Like Curiosity, Perseverance’s predecessor that landed in 2012, Perseverance will contact down utilizing a “sky hook” of nylon cords — now a confirmed methodology to land massive payloads on Mars. Perseverance options an upgraded steerage management system for touchdown generally known as Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN), which can permit for autonomous hazard avoidance and a pinpoint touchdown. Weighing in at 2,315 lbs (1,050 kg) on Earth, Perseverance would be the heaviest payload thus far that has landed on the floor of Mars.

Engineers carry out a match examine of the rover’s radioactive energy supply. NASA The rover is powered by a nuclear Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermometric Generator, which was put in shortly earlier than launch. Perseverance was the primary launch that includes a plutonium payload since Curiosity. The rover options re-enforced aluminum wheels, as NASA discovered that the rugged Martian terrain was exhausting on Curiosity’s wheels.

Perseverance may even function a small scout helicopter named Ingenuity, one other first for planetary exploration. Ingenuity will take quick flights and survey close by terrain for potential sampling websites.

The helicopter Ingenuity is put in aboard Perseverance (folded right here). NASA / JPL-CaltechCosting $2.four billion, the mission concerned a number of worldwide companions, together with Spain, Norway, and France.


Perseverance Science

Unlike Curiosity, Perseverance will particularly deal with the query of whether or not Mars was once liveable. To this finish, the rover will acquire and cache samples for return to Earth by a later mission someday within the mid-2020s. Such a posh mission would require a lander, switch rover, and an ascent automobile.

Another distinctive experiment onboard Perseverance is Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), which can exhibit in-situ oxygen era, a course of important for future lengthy-time period crewed missions to Mars.

Perseverance additionally introduced a chunk of Mars with it: a chunk of a Martian meteorite, way back blasted off its floor and picked up on Earth in 1999. The SHERLOC Raman spectrometer will use this fragment for calibration and research all through the mission.

SHERLOC may even be analyzing 5 samples of spacesuit materials, in order that scientists can analyze how the supplies degrade over time on the floor of Mars.

An engineer appears to be like on the SHERLOC calibration goal, housed inside a particular environmental chamber for its transport to the spacecraft earlier than integration. The goal comprises 10 kinds of supplies, together with spacesuit supplies and a fraction of a Martian meteorite.
NASAPerseverance may even — hopefully — subject the primary microphone to efficiently document the sounds of Mars. This has been a very long time coming, because the microphone aboard NASA’s Phoenix mission did not activate after its touchdown in 2008.

Certainly, 2020 was a difficult yr to launch a Mars mission through the ongoing international Covid-19 pandemic. Perseverance carries a plaque commemorating this attempting time, acknowledging the efforts of the medical group in battling the virus.

Perseverance in its protecting backshell with the commemorative plate seen. The inset reveals an in depth-up of the plate. NASA / JPL-Caltech / KSCThe Planetary Rover Scorecard

Perseverance follows what’s now an extended line of Mars rovers for NASA, together with Sojourner (1997), Opportunity (2003), Spirit (2003), and Curiosity (2012). Ironically, NASA has by no means fielded a robotic rover on the Moon, although China and the Soviet Union have. The U.S. will lastly be a part of the “Lunar Rover Club” with the Viper polar lander, set to move to the Moon in late 2023.

Perseverance is the final of the three missions headed to Mars in 2020; the subsequent motion will happen in February 2021, when all three missions arrive on the Red Planet. In late 2022, the European Space Agency’s Rosalind Franklin rover will be a part of the robotic armada.

All three missions are actually on their manner, opening up an thrilling new decade of Mars exploration.

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