Launched on July 30th, 2020 NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover is set to touchdown on the red planet Thursday February 18th.
Editors Note: Perseverance has successfully landed. This article was written before the landing, but much of the info still applies.
NASA currently has four rovers on Mars the new rover will add to the fleet. Perseverance has new groundbreaking technologies including a small helicopter/drone known as Ingenuity. This special payload has large carbon fiber blades that span 4 feet. NASA is saying that the flight of Ingenuity is a test flight as they are experimenting on the red planet. The rover will land in an area known as Jezero Crater where it is extremely cold, where temperatures will reach -130 degrees F. This rover will be equipped with over 2 dozen cameras, which should give us a great view of Mars. One of the big experiments on this rover is the search for potential life on Mars.
NASA chose Jezero Crater partially because it has a potential of discovering signs of ancient life and current life. We had a chance to speak with Emily Bohannon, a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California, to hear what she had to say about the timeline of landing and experimenting on Mars. Bohannon says “As soon as we land on the surface, we have a lot of checkouts that need to happen to make sure that the rover has landed safely and that everything is working, and nothing got rattled on the way down”. She says these vehicle checkouts will be completed over a time of about 5 days. In preparing for the landing, NASA has sent a series of commands to the vehicle. These commands record how long it takes for the signal to reach the rover, and then the return signal back to earth. Emily Bohannon says that the past few tests have been taking about 21 minutes for the return signal to reach JPL.
NASA seems to use different landing techniques for each rover. In one of their past rovers, they would encase it in a blown-up balloon sort of material so it would bounce when it hits the surface of the red planet, until it would come to a complete stop. This time NASA is using a propulsive system, meaning that they fire engines on a vehicle that is above the rover and allows the rover to be lowered to the surface. The vehicle that lowered the rover then flies off and if all goes well the rover will be safe on mars! Everyone is waiting to see what happens on Thursday! You can watch the event of the landing below.