Last week I explained more about the Perseverance Rover’s planned landing on Mars. On Thursday February 18th at 12:55 pm PST all of the blood, sweat, and tears that so many of the people at NASA put into the project were proven to be worth every bit of it. Other rovers have been successfully sent to Mars and are still there today. This rover is special in many ways. It is the largest we have sent, the size of an SUV.
Perseverance has a two year, three billion dollar mission to search the Martian surface for signs of ancient mircobial life. The end of the 292.5 mile journey was the most dangerous when the rover had to fall through the Martian atmosphere and land safely on the surface.That last portion of the trip has been called the “seven minutes of terror” by NASA. That is the time when the rover has to be gently set down with the use of a rocket assisted lander and the rover suspended on cables below it.
When the landing had been confirmed Steve Jurczyk, Acting Administrator of NASA, commented at the press conference “I’m amazed that everything went pretty much according to plan. When I heard the touchdown signal come back and saw the first image, I cannot tell you how overcome with emotion I was and how happy I was.”
The NASA control room erupted in cheers when the landing was confirmed and a second cheer arose when the first picture from Perseverance was transmitted back to earth.
The landing site is the Jezero Crater which is a 28-mile wide basin just north of the Martian equator. Evidence seems to indicate that a river once flowed into the crater two billion years ago forming a delta that contained the ingredients necessary for life. Perseverance has special drilling equipment on board that will enable it to take samples of the sediment deposits so they can be eventually returned to earth for analysis. The equipment needed to determine the exact makeup of the sediment would be much to large to be taken there on the rover.
There is a unique element to this mission. A specialized light-weight, 4-pounds, helicopter called Ingenuity will hopefully be able to fly in the thin Martian air. The helicopter has already communicated with NASA, so that’s one hurdle overcome.
According to MiMi Aung, Project Manager for the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) “Just about every milestone from here through the end of of out flight demonstration program will be a first, and each has to succeed for us to go on to the next. We’ll enjoy this good news for the moment, but then we’ll have to get back to work.” Ingenuity has a camera onboard and the plan, if the test flights are successful, is to use it as a scout to check out safe routes for Perseverance to travel to various locations to take the necessary samples.
The mission has really just begun and is planned to last 31 Martian days which is the equivalent of 30 days here on earth. Due to the time difference and the transmission delay time between Mars and Earth the NASA teams will be be working most of the time during the overnight hours.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected]