Everything you need to know about the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission
3 min read

Everything you need to know about the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission

Everything you need to know about the Mars 2020 Perseverance Mission

Could life on mars exist? Well, we are about to find out as a result of the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission. After being launched on the 3rd of July 2020, the Perseverance Rover landed 203 days later on 18th of February 2021. The landing side is Jezero crater which was selected from a list of 60 candidates.

According to NASA, the Perseverance mission has four objectives.

  1. To study the rocks and landscapes of the landing site to learn a little bit more about its history.
  2. To look for signs of ancient life.
  3. To find and collect samples of Mars rocks and soil for return to earth in a future mission.
  4. To test out technologies that'll one day sustain human life on Mars.

Before we talk about the rover, let's first take a look at the spacecraft in general. So it consists of five components.

  1. The crew stage which is equipped with solar panels, radio antennas, fuel tanks and thrusters. It's responsible for powering the entire device, maintaining contact with earth and adjusting the spacecraft's trajectory during its seven months journey to Mars.
  2. The back shell. Its primary purpose is to protect the rover during the turbulent descent to Mars. It also houses a parachute and thrusters for slowing down the spacecraft during descent.
  3. The descent stage or as NASA likes to call it the rover's jet pack. It is responsible for lowering the rover onto the Martian surface. It is equipped with a thrusters and landing radar systems for final adjustments of rover touchdown.
  4. The rover
  5. The heat shield. Its primary responsibility is to protect the rover from the extreme heat experience during the entry into the martian atmosphere it can withstand a heat of 1300 degrees celsius.

Now let's talk about the rover. It's equipped with seven scientific instruments, 19 cameras, a core drill for digging out rock and soil samples and two microphones for recording the sounds on Mars.

Scientific Instruments Onboard

  1. Mastcam-Z which is a camera system that will help scientists assess the Martian surface.
  2. MEDA which are sensors that take temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape measurements.  
  3. MOXIE which is a device that converts carbon dioxide into oxygen.  
  4. PIXL which is an x-ray spectrometer that conducts a detailed analysis of the chemical elements of the martian surface.
  5. RIMFAX which is a ground penetrating radar that provides centimeter scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.
  6. SHERLOC which is another spectrometer that provides fine scale imaging and uses a UV laser to detect organic compounds.
  7. The Supercam. It uses a laser camera and spectrometers to examine rocks and soil for organic compounds that allude to past life on mars.

Additionally the rover is also equipped with the Ingenuity Mars helicopter. It is a technology demonstration of the first powered flight on Mars. It can fly up to 90 seconds to an altitude of 3 to 4.6 meters and it only weighs 1.8 kilograms.

So other exciting technologies on the rover also include Range Trigger Technology and the Terrain Relative Navigation.

In previous missions the parachutes have been deployed as early as possible but this leads to a large landing ellipse. Larger landing ellipses can lead to rovers traversing a large distance just to reach its region of interest and given that the top speed of the rover is 152 meters per hr. it can mean a lot of lost mission time whereas the Range Trigger technology will be able to deploy the parachute when it sees fit based on its distance from the landing site thereby it reduces the size of your landing ellipse by more than 50%.

Finally the terrain relative navigation is responsible for deviating this spacecraft during descent from any rough terrains. So the duration of the rover's primary mission is about one martian year which is about 687 earth days, just short of two years. This is most of what you need to know about the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission.