Launched in July last year, NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover is now just a few weeks away from completing the crucial first leg of its mission – landing on the planet’s desolate red-rusted surface. The project is one of the space agency’s most ambitious projects to date, as it should help pave the way for future human expeditions to Mars.
The numbers involved in the NASA mission almost defy understanding – the spacecraft that carries the rover has already traveled 80.03 million miles (128 million km).
This involved the spacecraft’s precious cargo traveling through space at average speeds (relative to the Sun) of 51,739 mph (83,265km / h).
But the spacecraft’s journey is fast approaching its destination, with ‘mere’ 6.32 million miles (10.17 million km) remaining as of Sunday, January 3.
In order to prepare the public for this historic moment in space exploration, NASA created a interactive website where you can track the progress of Perseverance in real time.
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How will the Perseverance rover land on Mars?
The Perseverance rover mission will use the latest technology to maximize your chances of successfully descending and landing at the Jezero crater.
Like the precursor to Perseverance, the Curiosity rover, the latter probe will use a guided entry, descent and landing system.
This will make use of a parachute, descent vehicle and an approach called a ‘skycrane maneuver’ to lower the rover onto a rope to the surface during the final seconds before landing.
NASA said: “This type of landing system offers the ability to land a very large and heavy rover on the surface of Mars in a more accurate landing area than was possible before the Curiosity landed.
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“Mars 2020 takes things a step further. It adds new entry, descent and landing technologies, such as Terrain Relative Navigation.
“This sophisticated navigation system allows the rover to detect and avoid dangerous terrain, bypassing it during its descent through the Martian atmosphere.
“A microphone allows engineers to analyze entry, descent and landing.
“It can also capture sounds from the rover at work, which would give engineers clues about the health and operations of the rover, and it would be a pleasure to hear.”
What is the mission of NASA’s Perseverance rover?
The Perseverance rover has four scientific goals that support the scientific goals of the Mars Exploration Program.
This includes finding habitability, searching for bio signatures, caching samples and preparing for humans.
A key function of Perseverance Rover is to look for signs of ancient alien microbial life.
The rover was equipped with a drill to collect samples of rock and soil from Mars.
They will then be sealed in tubes awaiting collection for a future mission, which will return them to Earth for detailed analysis.
NASA said in a statement: “Perseverance will also test technologies to help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.
“Stuck in the belly of the rover for the trip to Mars is a demonstration of technology – the Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, can achieve a ‘moment of the Wright brothers’ by testing the first motorized flight on the Red Planet.
“The mission helps pave the way for future human expeditions to Mars in a variety of ways and demonstrates technologies that can be used in these ventures.
“This includes testing a method to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as groundwater), improving landing techniques and characterizing the climate, dust and other potential environmental conditions that can affect future astronauts who live and work on Mars . “