On Feb. 18, NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, will descend into the Purple Planet’s ambiance, braving temperatures equal to these on the floor of the solar because it deploys a supersonic parachute in hopes of a protected touchdown.
Earthbound viewers can comply with the nail-biting motion at residence right here on Dwell Science, on NASA Tv or on the NASA web site, which is able to carry stay protection from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The printed begins Feb. 18 at 2:15 p.m. EST (11:15 a.m. native time). There are additionally information conferences and informational periods earlier than touchdown day; a schedule is accessible on the Perseverance mission web site.
The rover will search Mars’ Jezero crater for indicators of microbial life. The 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) crater was as soon as a river delta and lake, a moist setting that would have been conducive to life in Mars’ previous. If all goes as deliberate, Perseverance would be the first Mars rover to gather samples to return to Earth. Future missions by NASA and the European House Company will ferry the Mars rocks again.
Associated: Picture tour of Jezero Crater: Here is the place Perseverance will land on Mars
A protracted journey
The rover left for Mars on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket on July 30, 2020, with a 293-million-mile (471 million km) journey forward of it. Touring at 1.6 miles per second (2.5 km per second) via area, the rover must decelerate shortly when it hits the Martian ambiance. About 10 minutes earlier than reaching the ambiance, the rover will drop its gasoline tanks and photo voltaic panels and sensors used throughout its journey, a bundle often called the cruise stage. Subsequent, particular thrusters will sluggish the spacecraft’s spinning and line it up for planetary entry. With solely 5 minutes in area left, the rover will drop two 154-lb. (70 kilograms) weights to lighten its load.
Then come the essential ultimate 7 minutes. Because the rover hits the ambiance, friction will trigger the craft to warmth dramatically. It’ll additionally decelerate shortly, utilizing thrusters to information it via any turbulence it could meet. With solely about 3 minutes to go, the rover will enter a part NASA is looking “Straighten Up and Fly Proper.” The spacecraft will drop a number of extra balances and maneuver into an applicable angle for touchdown.
At this level, the rover can be 7 miles (11 km) above the Martian floor, touring at 940 mph (1,512 km/h). Its parachute, 70.5 ft (21.5 meters) in diameter, will explode out of its shell, slowing the craft to 200 mph (320 km/h).
Twenty seconds later, the rover can be on the job. Its warmth shields will fall away, exposing cameras and different sensors. They may instantly start taking in knowledge, although the rover will nonetheless be nonetheless 6 miles (9.6 km) from the floor. An computerized navigation system will activate, permitting the rover to steer for protected touchdown spots on the terrain under. At a bit over a mile (2 km) from the bottom, the rover will detach from its parachute and free-fly to its touchdown. If all goes nicely, Perseverance ought to throttle all the way down to a pace of 1.7 mph (2.7 km/h) simply earlier than it lands. NASA’s interactive Entry Descent Touchdown simulator has extra element on these levels.
A rover’s mission
Perseverance’s mission on Mars will final not less than one Martian 12 months, or 687 Earth days. Mars rovers can far outlive their deliberate missions, nevertheless. NASA’s Curiosity rover, launched in 2011, was initially meant for a two-year mission however remains to be roaming the Purple Planet greater than eight Earth years after touchdown, and the Spirit rover was lively for six years regardless of a deliberate mission length of solely 92 Earth days.
Perseverance is supplied with superior cameras and instruments able to analyzing a rock’s composition based mostly on the sort of X-rays it offers off after being zapped with a stream of high-energy X-rays. It has ground-penetrating radar for imaging the subsurface of the planet and a drill for gathering samples from under the floor. The rover can even check whether or not people may survive on Mars by reworking the planet’s carbon dioxide into oxygen with an experiment referred to as the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Useful resource Utilization Experiment.
Finally, the objective is to search for historical life or biosignatures left in Mars rocks. The car-sized rover is a part of the Mars 2020 mission, which has a objective of ultimately sending human explorers to the Purple Planet.
Initially revealed on Dwell Science.