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7 Things to Know about the Perseverance Mars Rover

7 Things to Know about the Perseverance Mars Rover

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We’re set to launch the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on July 30. The rover is loaded with scientific instruments and advanced technology, making it the largest, heaviest and most sophisticated vehicle ever sent to the Red Planet.

What is Perseverance’s mission and what will it do on Mars? Here are seven things to know:

1. Perseverance draws on the NASA – and scientific – spirit of overcoming challenges

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Not only does it have to launch during a pandemic and land on a treacherous planet, it has to carry out its science goals:

  • Searching for signs of past microbial life
  • Mapping out the planet’s geology and climate
  • Collecting rock and other samples for future return to Earth
  • Paving the way for human exploration

We chose the name Perseverance from among the 28,000 essays submitted during the “Name the Rover” contest. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the months leading up to the launch in particular have required creative problem solving, teamwork and determination.

2. Perseverance builds on the lessons from other Mars rovers

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In 1997, our first Mars rover – Sojourner – showed that a robot could rove on the Red Planet. Spirit and Opportunity, which both landed in 2004, found evidence that Mars once had water before becoming a frozen desert.

Curiosity found evidence that Mars’ Gale Crater was home to a lake billions of years ago and that there was an environment that may have sustained microbial life. Perseverance aims to answer the age-old question – are there any signs that life once existed on Mars?

3. Perseverance will land in a place with high potential to find signs of ancient life

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The rover will land in Jezero Crater, a 28-mile wide basin north of the Martian equator. A space rock hit the surface long ago, creating the large hole. Between 3 and 4 billion years ago, a river flowed into a body of water in Jezero the size of Lake Tahoe.

4. Perseverance will also collect important data about Mars’ geology and climate

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Mars orbiters have collected images and other data about Jezero Crater from about 200 miles above, but finding signs of past life will need much closer inspection. A rover like Perseverance can look for those signs that may be related to ancient life and analyze the context in which they were found to see if the origins were biological.

5. Perseverance is the first leg of a round trip to Mars

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This is the first rover to bring a sample-gathering system to Mars that will package promising samples of rocks and other materials for future return to Earth. NASA and ESA are working on the Mars Sample Return campaign, so we can analyze the rocks and sediment with tools too large and complex to send to space.

6. Perseverance will pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet

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Two packages – one that helps the rover autonomously avoid hazards during landing (TRN) and another that gathers crucial data during the trip through Mars’ atmosphere (MEDLI2) – will help future human missions land safely and with larger payloads on other worlds.

There are two instruments that will specifically help astronauts on the Red Planet. One (MEDA) will provide key information about the planet’s weather, climate and dust activity, while a technology demonstration (MOXIE) aims to extract oxygen from Mars’ mostly carbon-dioxide atmosphere.

7. You get to ride along

7 Things to Know about the Perseverance Mars Rover

Perseverance and other parts of the Mars 2020 spacecraft feature 23 cameras, which is more than any other interplanetary mission in history. Raw images from the camera are set to be released on the mission website.

There are also three silicon chips with the names of nearly 11 million people who signed up to send their names to Mars.

And you can continue to follow the mission on Twitter and Facebook. 

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

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