NASA's upcoming mission to Mars will launch the first helicopter atop the Perseverance Rover. The Mars Helicopter is called ‘Ingenuity.’ Scientists and engineers have been developing the spacecraft since 2016, now they are conducting final preparations to launch the rover next month. On Monday, July 20th, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch at 9:15 a.m. EDT. from Space Launch Complex-41 in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Perseverance and Ingenuity will embark on a long voyage towards the Red Planet. The spacecraft is expected to arrive by February 18, 2021. The Atlas V rocket underwent preparations today ahead of the vital mission.
Today's #AtlasV test was successfully completed at 1:55pmEDT (1755 UTC). Systems will be safed, cryogenic fuels drained and the rocket allowed to warm up before rollback to the Vertical Integration Facility for Mars 2020 attachment. https://t.co/iq4oKMrMuA pic.twitter.com/38wFSaUXFV— ULA (@ulalaunch) June 22, 2020
NASA teams have been working on preparing the rover on time amid the coronavirus outbreak because Mars approaches closer to Earth once every 26 months; the agency must deploy it sometime between July 20 and August 11. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said they continued to work on the Perseverance rover because it has been a huge investment – “If we have to take Perseverance and put it back into storage for a period of two years, it could cost half a billion dollars.”
“Fifty-one years ago, today, NASA was deep into final preparations for the first Moon landing,” Bridenstine told reporters on June 17 – “Today we stand at the threshold of another monumental moment in exploration: sample collection at Mars. As we celebrate the heroes of Apollo 11 today, future generations may well recognize the women and men of Perseverance, not only for what they will achieve 100 million miles from home, but for what they were able to accomplish on this world on the road to launch.”
The Perseverance rover is about the size of a car. Its mission is to seek signs of life on the Martian surface. It will explore the Jezero Crater to study the planet's habitability and investigate if microscopic life existed in the past. Perseverance will collect rock samples and save them inside a storage for return to Earth in the future.
On track for launch in just over a month. The road has been long, but we’re persevering, inspired by the global medical community that’s gone above and beyond during #COVID19. That’s why I’m carrying this tribute plate for them, above and beyond to Mars. https://t.co/ye5Ab6oNrF pic.twitter.com/t0xbX4JpAj— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) June 17, 2020
The Perseverance team is thankful for the dedication of the medical community. In appreciation, NASA 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.”
The Ingenuity helicopter that will ride atop Perseverance is a new experimental technology. NASA will assess if it will be capable of safely flying 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. Regarding Ingenuity, the deputy project manager of the Mars 2020 mission, Matt Wallace said – “Getting it to Mars, getting it safely off the vehicle…we're going to learn a lot. We are not looking for an extensive and ambitious return from this technology; we're looking to learn those first few things that we need to learn.”
My launch to Mars is now set for no earlier than July 20. More time was allotted for the @ulalaunch team to make repairs to ground system equipment. Liftoff atop an #AtlasV rocket is set for 6:15 am PT (9:15 am ET, 1315 UTC) https://t.co/O9TWWbGfFi pic.twitter.com/dcJfYjDb80— NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) June 11, 2020
The nuclear-powered Perseverance will carry seven scientific instruments to analyze terrain. It also features 23 cameras and two microphones. NASA officials shared the Perseverance rover also features unique technology that could one day aid human Mars exploration missions. One of the unique instruments called 'MOXIE,' will test-out if it could generate oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, which is mostly composed of carbon dioxide. Lori Glaze, the director of NASA's Planetary Science Division stated:
“Perseverance is the most sophisticated mission we've ever sent to the Red Planet's surface.”
The Perseverance and Ingenuity duo will join NASA’s other two robots that are currently exploring the Martian terrain: the Curiosity rover which has been exploring the Gale Crater since August 2012; and the InSight Mars lander, which is tasked with investigating Mars earthquakes since it landed in November 2018.
The #CountdownToMars is on. We are 30 days from the launch of @NASAPersevere to the Red Planet. The rover will seek signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth.— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) June 20, 2020
📆 : July 20 at 9:15 am ET
🚀 :@ulalaunch Atlas V
🔗 :https://t.co/eCazTFJPmE pic.twitter.com/XEPRAyBVlF