Continuing its never-ending quest to study our closest neighbour in the solar system, NASA has successfully launched its latest mission to Mars. Aptly named ‘Perseverance’, the launch of the latest Mars rover is a testament to mankind’s determination to keep scientific progress going even in the time of a global pandemic.
Here’s all you need to know about the Perseverance Mars Mission:
When did Perseverance lift-off?
Perseverance achieved lift-off on Thursday, July 30, at 7:50 a.m. Eastern Time (5:20 p.m. Indian Standard Time).
The launch was initially scheduled for July 22 but had to be called off due to bad weather conditions. NASA had a small window to operate. Due to the alignment of Earth and Mars, the mission’s launch period would have expired on August 15. If they couldn’t achieve the launch by then, the rover would have to be stored for another two years, until the next favourable alignment of the planets.
Where did the rover take off from?
The launch happened from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, USA.
What was used to carry the rover?
Perseverance was mounted aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 541 rocket
When will it reach Mars?
After a seven-month journey, Perseverance is set to arrive on Mars on February 18, 2021, where it will touch down on the surface of the Jezero Crater.
How did it get its name?
The apt name for the rover was carefully chosen amongst thousands of options. NASA launched a “Name the Rover” competition in 2019 to find the perfect name. Children across schools in the US were invited to suggest a name and write essays explaining their choices. The competition was won by a middle school student by the name of Alexander Mather, who gave NASA’s latest rover the name, “Perseverance”.
What will it do on Mars?
The rover will be landing in the Jezero Crater, a place with high potential for finding signs of past microbial life. Previous Mars orbiters have been collecting images and other data from Jezero Crater from about 300 kilometres above, but Perseverance will land on the surface and perform a much closer inspection.
The mission marks the first time in history that samples will be collected to bring back to Earth from another planet. By studying Mars’ past climate conditions and its geological history embedded in its rocks, scientists will attempt to understand why Earth and Mars (which are made out of the star-stuff) ended up so different. The rover is also carrying instruments and technology that will facilitate manned missions to Mars someday.
Continuing a long lineage of explorers
The Perseverance rover follows a long line of missions aimed at better understanding the Red Planet. NASA’s first rover, Sojourner, demonstrated in 1997 that a robot could land on Mars. Spirit and Opportunity, which landed in 2004, found evidence that the planet once hosted running water before becoming a frozen desert. Curiosity, which has been exploring Mars since 2012, discovered that its landing site, the Gale Crater, was once home to a lake, billions of years ago, with an environment that could have supported microbial life.
Perseverance aims to take the next step, seeking, as a primary goal, to answer one of the key questions of astrobiology: Are there any signs that life once existed on Mars?
You’re invited for the journey!
Thanks to 23 cameras mounted on Perseverance and its surrounding equipment, we here on Earth get front row tickets to the whole show! Perseverance even has its own Twitter account with regular updates on its status!
We’re on our way to Mars – me and the almost 11 million names I carry. One home behind us, and a new one ahead. #CountdownToMars
— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) July 30, 2020
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