Monday, 03 August, 2020

Mars rover launched to look for signs of past life

A replica of the Mars rover Perseverance is displayed outside the press site before a news conference at the Kennedy Space NASA's next-generation Mars rover Perseverance launches this morning
Sandy Nunez | 01 August, 2020, 00:45

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch to Mars arrives at Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"Right now, the Mars 2020 mission is completing a full health assessment on the spacecraft and is working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars", added Nasa.

With one carefully chosen sample from Mars, we could discover that the history of life on the Earth is not unique in the Universe. Around 11:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. PDT), a signal with telemetry was received from Mars 2020 by NASA ground stations. Six other spacecraft are exploring the planet from orbit: three from the United States, two from Europe and one from India. The 45-kilometer-wide crater was a possible oasis in its distant past, a place with high potential for finding signs of past microbial life, according to NASA.

This illustration depicts NASA's Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars.

The spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and the rover was "flying free", Nasa reported.

With the successful launch and release, the Mars 2020 spacecraft, which consists of the Perseverance rover (with attached Ingenuity helicopter), the cruise stage, which is used to contain and protect the components during their flight to the red planet, and the Entry, Descent, and Landing System, which is used to safely land the payload on the Martian surface via an Aeroshell, parachute descent vehicle, and sky crane, has begun its almost 7 month journey to Mars. It will also contain super sanitised tubes which would hold rocks and soil- evidence (if any).

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The Mars sample return campaign is being planned by NASA and the European Space Agency to investigate the samples with instruments too large and complex to send to Mars. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin said he thought a slightly later target date of 2040 was more realistic.

"We as human beings have never flown a rotorcraft outside of our Earth's atmosphere, so this will be very much a Wright Brothers moment", said Mimi Aung, Ingenuity Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL, during a pre-launch briefing. This issue will be resolved once the spacecraft moves further into space. Engineers also upgraded the rover's wheels after rocks damaged the wheels on Curiosity.

NASA proved a robot could roam the Red Planet in 1997 with a rover the size of a microwave oven.

Perseverance also ferries a 1.8-kg helicopter to the surface of Mars, and the helicopter would be the first aircraft to fly in a controlled way on another planet.

The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter, Ingenuity, is meant to demonstrate technologies needed for flying in the Martian atmosphere. NASA and DOE are already planning for their next goal: NASA's Dragonfly mission to Saturn's moon, Titan, in 2026, which will also be powered by DOE, he said. United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launch scheduled for tomorrow will transport the rover to Mars.

The first involved a minor communications problem with NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), a global array of radio antennas that provide contact between a spacecraft and its team back on Earth. China, for example, recently launched its own Tianwen-1 mission to land a rover on Mars.