Wed. Jan 27th, 2021
How NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will get to the Red Planet

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(Picture credit score: NASA)

Launch

has a slim window to launch to earlier than the will get too far-off from Earth. Someday earlier than mid-August 2020, the will carry off from Launch Complicated 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Power Station close to Orlando, Florida. It’s at the moment scheduled to launch July 30, climate allowing. 

Perseverance will experience to house aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the identical rocket that despatched NASA’s InSight lander and Curiosity rover to Mars. After Perseverance reaches Earth orbit, a rocket higher stage will ship the rover on the lengthy cruise to Mars.

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(Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cruise

Each time Perseverance launches, it has a agency touchdown date of Feb. 18, 2021 in Jezero Crater. It is going to spend the intervening months flying in the direction of Mars. 

The cruise interval is an important time for engineers to proceed checking in on the rover (encased inside a protecting shell) to make it possible for all techniques are prepared for touchdown. When Perseverance will get nearer to Mars, engineers will hearth the shell’s engines to place the rover in the precise place for touchdown on the Purple Planet. However making that remaining method to Mars is barely step one in an advanced touchdown sequence.

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(Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Entry

You would possibly bear in mind the “seven minutes of terror” sequence that NASA’s Curiosity rover went by way of in 2012 to get the heaviest rover but launched to the floor of Mars. 

From getting into the environment, Curiosity had seven minutes to gradual itself down from 13,000 miles per hour (20,000 km/h) when it hit the environment, to zero mph to achieve the floor. Perseverance makes use of related techniques to Curiosity and can observe a lot of the identical sequence, however with extra superior tech.

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(Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Higher environment

Based mostly on the Curiosity sequence, the primary a part of the Perseverance touchdown will contain transferring safely by way of Mars’ upper atmosphere. 

Perseverance’s warmth protect will glow because it reaches temperatures of about 2,900 levels Fahrenheit (1,600 levels Celsius). The skinny environment will gradual the rover all the way down to about 1,000 mph (1,600 km/h) earlier than the system deploys a huge parachute. 

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(Picture credit score: NASA)

Vary set off

Not like Curiosity, Perseverance will use a “range trigger” to unfurl the parachute based mostly on the spacecraft’s place relative to its touchdown goal — which might enhance the touchdown accuracy and cut back the rover’s time to get to the precise investigation space by as a lot as one Earth yr. 

Perseverance additionally has a extra superior model of the MSL Entry, Descent, and Touchdown Instrumentation (MEDLI) sensor that Curiosity carried to have a look at properties of the environment. MEDLI2 not solely collects knowledge from the warmth protect (as Curiosity did), however the afterbody of the spacecraft — which means, the a part of the spacecraft behind the protect.

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(Picture credit score: NASA)

Terrain-relative navigation

Like Curiosity, Perseverance will start its descent to the floor, beneath a parachute, at about 200 miles per hour (322 km/h). Perseverance will then deploy much more new tech to enhance its possibilities of discovering the precise spot. 

The rover will use a recent approach often known as terrain-relative navigation to choose the precise touchdown spot. It does this by evaluating the land beneath the rover to beforehand obtained maps from Mars orbiters. If Perseverance sees harmful terrain as much as about 985 toes (300 meters) in diameter, it could change course and transfer to a safer zone. This new approach permits Perseverance to land in tough (and fascinating) terrain with much less danger to the rover.

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(Picture credit score: NASA)

Gathering knowledge

On board Perseverance are much more touchdown cameras than Curiosity had. Perseverance consists of an “up look digicam” on the parachute, a “down look” digicam on the descent stage, an “up look” digicam on the rover and a “down look” digicam on the rover. 

Together with a microphone, the cameras are thought of “public engagement payloads” that enable individuals to just about experience together with the rover to the floor and watch the rover end its remaining few toes (or meters) of descent, according to NASA. The cameras additionally present useful knowledge to enhance the security of future Mars landings.

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(Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Touchdown

Near the bottom, rockets will hearth to stabilize and gradual Perseverance’s descent to the floor. The rockets can’t come all the best way to the floor, nonetheless, as a result of an epic mud storm could be kicked up. So as an alternative — identical to with Curiosity in 2012 — a “sky crane” will winch Perseverance all the way down to the floor on 21-foot (6.four meters) cables. 

As soon as Perseverance touches down, the sky crane will launch the cables and fly away for a protected crash-landing on the floor, properly away from the rover.

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(Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Driving

Perseverance will not hit the street immediately, as investigators will need to be sure the rover is in good working order after the touchdown. Routine checks of its devices might be carried out, and the rover may even take a number of photos of its touchdown space in order that planners can goal one of the best websites to go to first. 

As soon as Perseverance will get going, its long-term objectives are to search out rocks fashioned or altered by environments that “might have supported microbial life in Mars’ historic previous”, according to NASA, or rocks that might have saved historic chemical traces of life. Some rocks might be drilled into and put aside in caches for a future sample-return mission to Earth. Perseverance may even attempt producing oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide environment, a method that could possibly be helpful for future human missions.

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(Picture credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Flying!

Perseverance will not experience to the floor alone. Using on its underbelly would be the Ingenuity helicopter, which is able to take a look at out flying on Mars and “scouting forward” for future Purple Planet explorers. Helicopters even have a bonus of flying over harmful terrain inaccessible to rovers, similar to steep hills or craters. 

To do take a look at flights, the rover staff will search for a zone about 33 toes by 33 toes (10 by 10 meters). Perseverance will deploy the helicopter and again away to look at Ingenuity’s actions from a few soccer subject in distance. Operators will work for six Earth days ensuring Ingenuity is protected to fly. The helicopter will do a number of take a look at flights and is designed to final about 30 sols (Martian days).

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