NASA’s Mars Orbiter concludes its main mission on the Red Planet.
car size Rover Perseverance It touched down on the floor of Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021, kicking off an ambitious surface mission designed to last one year on the Red Planet, about 687 Earth days.
Now is the time. the Mars The calendar shifted to Perseverance on Friday (January 6). But don’t worry: The six-wheeled robot will smoothly transition into an extended mission on Saturday (January 7).
Perseverance has two main missions on the Red Planet. The rover is looking for possible signs Mars life On the floor of the 28-mile (45-kilometer) wide Jezero, which hosted a large lake and river delta billions of years ago. Perseverance is also collecting and caching dozens of samples, which will be a joint NASA-ESA campaign. Bring it to the ground For detailed study in the early 2030s, if all goes according to plan.
This campaign will launch a rocket-borne NASA lander as well as an European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft to return to the Red Planet in the mid-to-late 2020s. The plan calls for Perseverance to fly its samples to the rover; The rocket will then launch the precious cargo into Mars orbit, where an ESA probe will disable it and return the material to Earth.
Perseverance has made a lot of progress on the sampling front so far. The rover has already been filled and sealed 18 of 38 titanium sampler tubes (Opens in a new tab) Plus three of the five “witness tubes,” which will help mission team members assess how clean Perseverance’s sampling system is.
The rover has also started caching samples so far Four of the 10 tubes are planned On a patch of Jezero terrain that the mission team calls Three Forks. This repository is a backup, to cover the possibility that Perseverance will not be able to transfer its samples to the probe when the time comes. (The rover is in good shape now, but there is no guarantee that it will remain healthy until the end of the decade.)
In this case, two small helicopters that will fly aboard the lander will bring the sample tubes from the repository one by one.
With this precaution in mind, the mission team was collecting two samples from each target rock. Persistence is to keep one group on board and cache the other group.
Fetch helicopters will be highly dependent on clevernessthe 4-pound (1.8 kg) helicopter that traveled to Mars with tenacity.
Ingenuity’s main mission was to show that atmospheric exploration is possible on Mars in spite of the planet Gentle atmosphere, which is only 1% as dense as Earth’s at sea level. The tiny helicopter quickly achieved that goal during a five-flight demonstration campaign and is now serving as a scout for perseverance on a long and ambitious mission.
Creativity now has 37 flights under its belt, which together have covered a total of 4.7 miles (7.6 kilometers). Perseverance, for its part, has achieved approximately 8.7 miles (14.0 km) of extraterrestrial driving, and that total will rise exponentially over its extended mission.
After completing dropping samples at Three Forks Repository, Perseverance will head to the summit of the ancient Jezero River Delta, likely finishing the ascent in February. The rover will then scout the area for the next eight months or so, looking for, among other things, boulders washed away by the ancient Jezero River into the crater.
“The Delta Top campaign is our chance to get a glimpse of the geological process beyond the walls of Jezero Crater,” said Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for Perseverance, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. statement last month (Opens in a new tab).
“Billions of years ago, a raging river carried debris and rocks from miles beyond the walls of Jezero,” she said. “We’re going to explore these ancient river deposits and get samples of their rocks and boulders that have been cut over long distances.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad (Opens in a new tab)Book (Major Grand Publishers, 2018; illustration by Carl Tate), a book about the search for aliens. Follow him on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).