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NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover Touchdown: How one can Watch and What’s on Board


(Picture: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is scheduled to land on the Pink Planet on Feb. 18, the place it’s going to search for indicators of microbes (useless or alive) and perhaps even liveable environments.

Perseverance launched by way of an Altas V rocket on July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. However its journey is simply starting. Thursday’s touchdown is one a part of an nearly $3 billion mission that may go on for one more 687 days—or one Martian yr (aka, one journey across the solar).

Perseverance seems loads just like the older, nonetheless lively Curiosity Rover, which landed in 2012. It has about 85% of the identical {hardware}, Space.com says, which saved some huge cash and decreased danger, since NASA is aware of it already works. However Perseverance’s objectives transcend taking photos.


What’s on Board?

Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance is on a mission—seek for indicators of historical life and gather samples that can be returned to Earth for research. To hold this out, it’s going to land on Mars outfitted with seven instruments price $130 million—selected by NASA in 2014 from 58 proposals. This is what Perseverance is packing.

Mars Oxygen In-Situ Useful resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE)

Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE)

MOXIE (Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Perseverance is carrying expertise referred to as the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Useful resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), which is able to generate O2 out of Mars’ CO2 environment—the sort of experiment which will assist people survive there sometime.

The 37.7-pound gadget “breathes like a tree,” NASA explains, inhaling carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen. Provided that oxygen makes up solely 0.13% of the gasoline in Mars’ environment, in comparison with 21% in Earth’s environment, producing oxygen from the Martian environment can be essential for human survival on the Pink Planet.

MOXIE may also be used to create propellant, so individuals can discover Mars, and go away it to return to Earth. “When we send humans to Mars, we will want them to return safely, and to do that they need a rocket to lift off the planet. Liquid oxygen propellant is something we could make there and not have to bring with us. One idea would be to bring an empty oxygen tank and fill it up on Mars,” says MIT’s Michael Hecht, Principal Investigator for MOXIE.

The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX)

The Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX)

RIMFAX (Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) can peek beneath the planet’s ice, sand, and rock utilizing ground-penetrating radar with a spread of greater than 30 toes. It is just like radar used on Earth to probe the underground layers of rock and ice within the Arctic and Antarctic, NASA says. However it’ll be the primary radar instrument NASA sends to the floor of Mars.

“No one knows what lies beneath the surface of Mars. Now, we’ll finally be able to see what’s there,” says Svein-Erik Hamran from the College of Oslo, RIMFAX’s Principal Investigator.

Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)

Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)

PIXL (Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) sports activities an X-ray spectrometer that may dig round within the Martian rock and soil to take close-up pictures and measure the chemical make-up of supplies as small as a grain of salt. The concept is to search out indicators of previous microbial life on Mars, and small motors give this 10-pound gadget the pliability it wants.

“If you are looking for signs of ancient life, you want to look at a small scale and get detailed information about chemical elements present,” says NASA JPL Analysis Scientist Abigail Allwood, PIXL’s Principal Investigator.

Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC),

SHERLOC (Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A separate instrument, the SuperCamSuperCam, will even be used to “identify the chemical composition of rocks and soils, including their atomic and molecular makeup.” Its laser “is uniquely capable of remotely clearing away surface dust, giving all of its instruments a clear view of the targets,” says Roger Wiens of Los Alamos Nationwide Laboratory, SuperCam’s Principal Investigator.

Remember the Scanning Liveable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemical compounds (SHERLOCSHERLOC), which can be on the hunt for indicators of water and previous microbial life by way of its ultraviolet laser mild.

Mastcam-Z

Mastcam-Z

Mastcam-Z (Credit score: MSSS/ASU)

Mastcam-Z will mainly perform as Mars’ in-house photographer, taking high-definition video, panoramic coloration and 3D pictures of the planet’s floor and environment with a reasonably fancy zoom perform. It is fairly compact; see the pocket knife within the picture above for scale. However its zoom “can see features as small as a house fly—all the way from a distance that’s about the length of a soccer field,” NASA says. Perched atop the rover, scientists again on Earth can use Mastcam-Z for a 360-degree view and to zoom in on rocks. “It tells us which rocks to core, cache, and maybe return to Earth someday,” in accordance with NASA.

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)

MEDA (Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

How’s the climate up there? That is a query for the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), which is able to measure climate and monitor mud by way of sensors mounted on Perseverance. It’s going to additionally measure radiation, which “can alter traces of any past life in Mars rocks,” NASA says. “MEDA helps scientists understand these changes and tells them what to look for.”


Mars Helicopter

Mars Helicopter

Artist rendering of the Mars Helicopter (Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Perseverance even has a drone; a small helicopter named Ingenuity will fly off on scout missions to see how powered flight works within the skinny Martian air. As NASA explains, the helicopter is sort of a facet undertaking. It is not formally a part of the Mars 2020/Perseverance mission. However “its performance during these experimental test flights will help inform decisions relating to considering small helicopters for future Mars missions, where they could perform in a support role as robotic scouts, surveying terrain from above or as full standalone science craft carrying instrument payloads.”


7 Minutes of Terror

Sky Crane

Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

After years of planning and months of journey, it is the complex landing that issues most. With the assistance of a supersonic parachute, what’s generally known as a “skycrane maneuver,” and different high-stakes strikes, the two,314-pound Perseverance makes its technique to the floor of Mars this week. Solely 40% of Mars landings have been profitable to this point, in order that drop from Mars’s higher environment to the bottom has been dubbed “seven minutes of terror.”

The entire thing can be captured by Perseverance cameras, one pointing up on the parachute and skycrane, one other pointing down on the floor to report first floor contact—the primary time that is ever occurred.


How one can Watch the Perseverance Mars Rover Touchdown

So how do you watch this factor land—or crash—in Mars’s 28-mile vast Jezero Crater? (NASA picked that spot north of the equator as a result of it was once a lake, and could possibly be a superb place for locating microorganisms and distinctive rocks, even when that lake existed 3.5 billion years in the past.)

The reply is, to look at it “live,”—preserving in thoughts the lag time for a sign from Mars to Earth (over 300 million miles) is up to 20 minutes. Be prepared earlier than 3:55 p.m. EST on Thursday, February 18. Protection begins at 2:15 p.m. EST in a number of locations:

Obtained questions? Use the hashtag #CoundowntoMars to speak to NASA by way of social media. Perseverance additionally has a Twitter feed all its personal: @NASAPersevere.

Don’t wait to visit those pages. NASA’s pre-landing programming is already underway complete with Perseverance mission science overviews and more. You can also download the full Mars 2020 Perseverance Landing Press Kit PDF from NASA/JPL-Caltech for all the small print. And be sure you try ExtremeTech.com’s interview with Adam Steltzner, the chief engineer of the Mars 2020 undertaking at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.





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