On the 18th of February 2021, the NASA Mars Rover Perseverance successfully landed on Mars. This was a mission almost seven years in the making and its finally made it to Mars. There is a monumental amount of work and planning that needs to go into every space mission launched, especially ones that are traveling months to a literally different planet.
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The rover’s plans aren’t to just drive around for some really fancy pictures of Mars either.
The rover has a variety of missions that it plans to complete in the possible decade or more it’s going to be on Mars. The rover’s biggest mission on mars is to look for signs of environments on mars that may have once been able to support life.
After that, it’s looking for actual microscopic life that could still exist in those places and simply collecting rock and soil samples from mars and running a large variety of tests on them to learn more about the martian surface and environments.
Another big thing that the Perseverance rover is going to attempt to do is to try and turn various things that can be found on the Martian surface relatively commonly into oxygen. This is important because it’s a vital step for planned manned mars missions in the future.
Being able to create oxygen on mars is an obviously very important step because people kind of need oxygen to survive. Rocket fuel is also usually made with oxygen, as fire needs it to burn, so if you ever plan on sending something back to Earth, you need oxygen.
Even though the rover that predates Perseverance, the Curiosity rover, was able to successfully land on Mars back in August of 2012. It landed practically flawlessly on the red planet. Even with the massive public success of this mission, it was still uncertain when it came to whether there would be another mission.
Although after a survey study was done and released by the National Academies of Engineering, Sciences and Medicine called the Planetary Science Decadal Survey (a survey that is done every decade about a large variety of topics) a large number of scientists, engineers and researchers said that a top priority mission should be a sample return mission.
This would be a mars mission that had the capabilities of launching and sending a sample all the way back to Earth. It would be a massive step in research that could be done to sample if we could get access to them back here on Earth.
Its believed that this survey and the very strong support of a need for future Mars missions among researchers, engineers, and scientists play a big role in getting the approval and funding needing for the next Mars mission, Perseverance.
The Perseverance rover has the capabilities of sending multiple samples back to Earth through a form of sample rockets.
The design itself was heavily based on the design of the predecessor rover, Curiosity. This was one of the steps taken that greatly reduced the cost of the final rover since a lot of designed parts could be reused for the new rover.
Perseverance, though, is different from Curiosity because it takes what flaws we have found in Curiosity over its many years of working on Mars and improves them.
Its wheels have been upgraded since Curiosities were damaged during its travels on Mars and NASA doesn’t want a repeat of that. Although that surprisingly is the largest structural change on the rover. Everything else about its design and structure is practically the same.
Of course, the scientific equipment across the craft is all different, with a newer more advanced robotic arm for sample gathering and drilling along with a few other assorted pieces of equipment on it.
Its cameras are more advanced and its power supply is apparently tweaked slightly. Even with those changes that they did make, because of the number of parts they were able to reuse the designs for saved NASA close to a billion dollars when building Perseverance.
Now that is impressive.
The name itself of the rover wasn’t actually chosen by NASA. The name, as it has been for almost every craft NASA has launched for the past several decades, was decided by a competition among students from schools all across the United States of America and its territories.
It was Alexander Mather from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia who had the essay that decided the final name for the rover.
The Mars rover Perseverance isn’t traveling alone to Mars. He’s bringing with him the Mars Helicopter Experiment, called Ingenuity.
NASA plans on testing if you can fly a helicopter on Mars and what the effects on it will be from the very low atmosphere that Mars has.
Designing a helicopter to fly on Mars was not an easy task either. Because of the low gravity, the helicopter needs to be able to generate a lot more lift than a helicopter on Earth would need to along with needing to be light so that it’s cheaper to get it there.
The final design is an ultra-light helicopter, that is only 1.8 kilograms or four pounds. It is solar-powered and the idea around it is that it sits and charges its batteries fully before any flight, which there sadly won’t be many of anyways.
Ingenuity carries no scientific equipment besides a camera and its job on Mars currently is to simply see if it can fly. NASA currently plans for only around five total missions with Ingenuity.
But at least we are going to get some sweet aerial shots from the helicopter while it’s in the air.