NASA Perseverance rover all set to touch down on Mars today

Key Highlights

  • NASA’s Perseverance rover traveling to Mars, will be landing on its Jezero crater later tonight.
  • The rover is set to stay there for one-Mars year, that is equal to 687 days on Earth.
  • Its main objectives are to get a better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of ancient life.
  • It has taken along Ingenuity, a helicopter and important instruments like SHERLOC and PIXL.

 

 

National Aeronautics Space Administration’s (NASA) Perseverance rover traveling to Mars, will be attempting to land on its Jezero crater later tonight. According to IST, it will land on February 19 at 2:25 AM IST.

According To NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the Perseverance rover was built, the rover lifted off from Kennedy Space Centre on July 30, 2020

After its landing, the rover is set to stay there for one-Mars year, that is equal to 687 days on Earth. The Mars Perseverance rover’s main objective, as stated by NASA are to get a better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of ancient life. It will gather samples consisting of rock and soil that could be potentially delivered to a lander that is part of the planned Mars sample return campaign by NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency). The rover will also test newer technologies to aid future missions for exploring the red planet.

The statement also said that previously, owing to warmer environments at the surface, the red planet could have supported microbial life. The rover will also give importance to finding out the signs of past microbial life existence.

The aeroshell containing NASA’s Perseverance rover (Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This year there will be two attempts to land on Mars in 2021 , one by NASA and the other by  China National Space Administration. Here’s a video where Science reporter Laura Foster of BBC traces the 60 years of history of missions to Mars and gives account of all successes and failures.

The instruments involved

Fuelled by electrical power generated by using the heat of plutonium’s radioactive decay, the rover is equipped with drills, cameras and lasers. The six-wheeled rover also gets shape memory alloys to remain steady on the rocky surface of Mars.

The Perseverance rover has a drill that will cut intact rock cores which are as small as a piece of chalk. Further, it will place them in sample tubes to store it by the time the rover reaches an appropriate drop-off location on Mars.

Perseverance has taken along a helicopter named Ingenuity, the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.

Another important instruments are SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals), and  PIXL ( Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry), the former can which can detect organic matter and minerals, while the latter can maps the chemical composition of rocks and sediments.

Here is a 3D model  of the rover.

The landing

The time cycle of July to February was carefully chosen depending on the proximity between Earth and Mars which opens every two years.

The challenging terrain of the crater will be covered by the rover in the time it is there. The Jezero Crater is a 45 km wide basin located in the northern hemisphere of Mars. According to NASA, around 3.5 billion years ago, there followed a river that went into a body of water where it deposited sediments in a delta. The water body was approximately the size of Lake Tahoe.

Check out the Perseverance Rover Landing Site Map, the location where the rover is bound to land.

Or you can witness the landing yourself, by setting a reminder to watch the NASA’s Perseverance Rover Land on Mars!

It will take 11 minutes and 22 seconds for signals to travel from Mars to Earth containing news of the mission’s progress.

(Amrin Naaz)