Perseverance is defined as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” It is a term that befits our current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. If we persist in following the rules we have been given we have a much better chance to survive this awful situation in which we find ourselves.
The word has a special stature at NASA. A contest was held for students to pick a name for the new Mars Rover. A seventh-grader named Alexander Mather from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Virginia chose the name that was deemed the winner: “Perseverance.”
Perseverance is getting ready for the long journey to Mars. Mars 2020 Mission, as it is called, has a launch window of July 17, 2020 through August 5, 2020. It will blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida with the landing scheduled for February 18, 2021 at Jezero Crater, Mars. This mission is planned to last one Mars year which is the equivalent of 687 days here on Earth. With the surprisingly long-lasting life of the previous rovers this mission could possibly last longer than the expected time frame.
The Kennedy Space Center in Florida is the facility where the assembly process continues. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Cal Tech explain on their website that they are placing the Rover and other spacecraft components in what they call “vehicle stacking.” They have already connected Perseverance to its rocket-powered descent stage with special explosive bolts. Quoting JPL: “When it’s time for the rover to touch down on Mars these three bolts will be released by small pyrotechnic charges, and the spacecraft will execute the sky crane maneuver: Nylon cords spool out through what are called bridle exit guides to lower the rover 25 feet (7.6 meters) below the descent stage. Once Perseverance senses it’s on the surface, pyrotechnically-fired blades will sever the cords, and the descent stage flies off. The sky-crane maneuver ensures Perseverance will land on the Martian surface free of any other spacecraft components, eliminating the the need for a complex deployment procedure.” Many of the people working on and testing the software and the subsystems are teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This rover has some improvements over it’s predecessors. It will have a special drill for obtaining core samples of the Martian landscape and specially designed wheels that are more functional than those on other rovers. However, those aren’t necessarily the most important differences. This rover will carry something special strapped to its belly. That is a specially made helicopter. This unique helicopter is composed of “more that 1,500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil, and foam.”
Earlier this year the helicopter was tested to make sure it would function properly. Quoting NASA Science from the mars.nasa.gov site: “Weighing in at no more than 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms), the helicopter is a technology demonstration project currently going through the rigorous verification process certifying it for Mars. An engineering model of the helicopter was tested for more than an hour and 15 minutes of successful flying time. The real test is using the actual vehicle that will be flying on Mars. Mimi Aung, project manager for the Mars helicopter project, is quoted on the site as saying “The Martian atmosphere is only one percent the density of Earth’s. Our test flights could have similar atmospheric density here on Earth – if you put your airfield 100,000 ft. (30,480 meters) up. So you can’t go somewhere and find that. You have to make it.”
I don’t know about you but I am getting anxious to see the launch and what happens when Perseverance actually lands on the Martian surface.
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