NASA is ready to land the Perseverance rover on Mars, after a seven-month-long voyage. The rover carries a small helicopter called ‘Ingenuity’. It will be the first-time scientists attempt to fly a helicopter on the Red planet. The agency targets to touchdown gently on Martian terrain today, February 18, at around 3:55 p.m. Eastern Time. Live broadcast of the rover’s landing will initiate at 2:25 p.m. EST via NASA Television, video linked below. The agency will also broadcast its first-ever Spanish-language show for a planetary landing called “Juntos Perseveramos” which translates to “Together We Persevere.” It will highlight the role Hispanic NASA staff have in the mission.
The #CountdownToMars is on! Three ways you can tune in today:— National Air and Space Museum (@airandspace) February 18, 2021
1 pm ET: Our Perseverance pre-landing live chat: https://t.co/sHlN2kzgAb
2:15 pm ET: @NASA coverage of the landing: https://t.co/fUiJhVBmdN
2:30 pm ET: @NASA_es's #JuntosPerseveramos broadcast: https://t.co/FCKTnwGkYK pic.twitter.com/X3bq1v3VJn
“The entry, descent, and landing team started on console at mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at 8:30 a.m. EST (5:30 a.m. PST) this morning. They are preparing for the spacecraft to start blazing through the Martian atmosphere at around 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST),” agency representatives announced in a press release. “At the time of landing, Mars will be 127 million miles (204 million kilometers) from Earth. At this distance, the one-way light time – the amount of time for a signal to get from Perseverance to Earth – is 11 minutes, 22 seconds,” they wrote. Upon landing the Perseverance rover will plunge through the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere at more than 12,000 mph (miles per hour). The rover will slow down using onboard thrusters and will conduct a parachute-assisted descent. Then, during a ‘sky crane maneuver’ the descent stage will lower the rover on a trio of cables to land softly. The rover and helicopter duo are tasked with a couple of scientific research missions. One is to study Mars’ habitability; It will seek signs of ancient life and also analyze the planet's climate to pave the way for human exploration. Perseverance will land on a 28-mile-wide Jezero Crater that astrobiologists believe it once was filled with water to collect rock samples and save them inside a storage for return to Earth on a future mission.
The nuclear-powered Perseverance features 7 scientific instruments to analyze terrain. It also features 23 cameras and two microphones. NASA officials shared the rover is equipped with unique technologies that could one day aid human Mars exploration missions. One of the unique instruments called 'MOXIE,' short for ‘Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment,’ is designed to separate oxygen from carbon dioxide [CO2] in Mars. It will test-out if it could generate oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, which consists of 96% CO2 – only 0.13% oxygen. For perspective, there is 21% oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen is essential for human survival, achieving producing it on Mars with an instrument like MOXIE could facilitate human colonization. If it works, the agency plans on sending a larger-scale instrument to produce oxygen on the Red Planet.
The Ingenuity helicopter that rides with Perseverance is a new experimental technology. NASA will assess if it will be capable of performing a controlled flight through the rough Martian environment. Ingenuity will help the Perseverance rover search for locations to study. It is solar-powered, equipped to provide overhead images with ten times higher resolution of orbital images. Aerial exploration of Mars will provide more data to map the planet’s surface and plan astronauts’ future travel routes. It carries no scientific instruments, only cameras.
All Images Source: NASA
The Perseverance team at NASA is thankful for the dedication of the medical community amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. In appreciation, the agency installed an aluminum plate that features an image of Earth and a serpent-entwined rod, pictured above, which represents the medical community supporting our planet during difficult times. The special plate is attached on the left side of the Perseverance rover chassis, between the middle and rear wheels. “We wanted to demonstrate our appreciation for those who have put their personal well-being on the line for the good of others,” said Matt Wallace, Perseverance deputy project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It is our hope that when future generations travel to Mars and happen upon our rover, they will be reminded that back on Earth in the year 2020 there were such people.”
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About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.