On July 30th, at the first launch opportunity, an Atlas 5 carried the Perseverance Rover into space and on its way to Mars. The spacecraft still needs to survive nearly seven months of interplanetary cruise, and then “seven minutes of terror” to enter Mars’ atmosphere and slow from enormous speed down to a gentle landing. If it manages that, it will join a fleet of other research robots on and around the red planet, and more that are also on their way this year, to learn the secrets of this barren but intriguing world—and to prepare for future missions, including human voyages!
Perseverance has many similarities of design to the Curiosity rover that made this journey nine years ago and continues to explore Gale crater. However, it incorporates several improvements and a new suite of science instruments, particularly to look for direct evidence of past life on Mars. The rover also caries several exciting elements bridging to the future:
- Sample collection, to be cached and returned to Earth by later missions.
- The first helicopter to fly on another world.
- A proof of concept of refining fuel from the Martian atmosphere.
For more information on the launch and some immediate problems successfully overcome: Space.com website
Perseverance mission website: NASA website
I’ll present a slideshow about the mission at the virtual ArmadilloCon Saturday from 5 to 6 PM! ArmadilloCon schedule
John Gibbons, Solar System Ambassador