Perseverance On Mars

Based on Curiosity Rover which has already operated in Gale Crater for over eight years, the nuclear powered Perseverance Rover made the cool “Sky Crane” landing technology for that design a two for two this week as the rocket-propelled platform lowered the rover to the Mars surface. Also, like Curiosity, Perseverance will search for alien life and the conditions that support it.

NASA has started taking the intent to send people to Mars much more seriously lately, since we’ve probably reached a time now when if NASA doesn’t “take point” on humanity’s path to Mars, then someone else will just go without them. Also, if we intend to prove that there is no life on Mars to messup before we go mucking about over there, we’d dang well better hurry and get it done. Two or three more launch windows down the calendar and planetary protection will be out the window. This rover will do more than just the usual search for biosignatures…it’ll also test a technology to try to synthesize oxygen from the Martian atmosphere to generate breathable air and even study the soil for elements that could be useful for sustaining human life.

Something else that should be fun, the Ingenuity Helicopter, a technology test to attempt powered flight, rode with Perserverance to the Mars surface. With only 10% of Earth’s atmospheric density, Mars doesn’t have much in the way of air for aircraft like that to fly in. If it works then we get drones to help explore and we’ll get to cover a lot more ground than a wheeled rover can reach by itself.

For 2026, a joint NASA-ESA mission to Mars is in the works that will include a rocket for launching samples of the Martian soil back to Earth. Perserverance will gather containers of samples and leave them laying around like bread crumbs for a future “fetch rover” to pick up, load onto that rocket and send to Mars orbit. An ESA Earth return orbiter will then rendezvous with them and carry them home.

So, even though this new rover is the brother (or sister?) of the older one, the science has been updated and most of it will pioneer planetary science and exploration for years to come. NASA will also participate in the upcoming joint ESA-Roscosmos 2022 ExoMars solar-powered rover mission that missed this year’s flight window due to Covid-19 delays.

That’s it on this year’s Mars launches from Earth. They all arrived safely and will begin operations soon. This has increased our planet’s success rate with Mars missions. With no new crashes and no knew “Lost in Space” orbital insertion errors this time around, we might just know enough now that we can safely start planning how to send people.

~ by Bill Housley on February 20, 2021.

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