Mission Mars 2020 – Perseverance rover

Mars2020 - Search­ing for traces of past life

Mars rover Perseverance and helicopter Ingenuity
Mars rover Per­se­ver­ance and he­li­copter In­ge­nu­ity
Image 1/3, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltec

Mars rover Perseverance and helicopter Ingenuity

On 18 Febru­ary 2021, NASA's Mars 2020 rover Per­se­ver­ance and the Mars he­li­copter In­ge­nu­ity will land in Jeze­ro crater. Per­se­ver­ance is the most com­plex rover that NASA has ev­er sent to Mars. In­ge­nu­ity, a tech­nol­o­gy demon­stra­tion, will be the first fly­ing craft to at­tempt a con­trolled flight on an­oth­er plan­et. The 50-cen­time­tre-tall he­li­copter drone is at­tached to the un­der­side of Per­se­ver­ance and will be low­ered to the ground. Per­se­ver­ance will move a few me­tres away and fol­low the flight demon­stra­tion with the rover cam­eras.
NASA's Mars rover Perseverance
NASA's Mars rover Per­se­ver­ance
Image 2/3, Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars rover Perseverance

Artist's im­pres­sion of the Mars rover Per­se­ver­ance of the NASA Mars 2020 mis­sion, which will land in Jeze­ro Crater on 18 Febru­ary 2021. There, it will search for traces of life (so-called biosig­na­tures). For the first time, soil and rock sam­ples will al­so be col­lect­ed and de­posit­ed on the sur­face of Mars to be col­lect­ed and re­turned to Earth in the ear­ly 2030s by a lat­er joint NASA-ESA mis­sion. Per­se­ver­ance has a mass of 1025 kilo­grams, which ex­erts a weight force of al­most 350 kilo­grams on Mars. The rover is ap­prox­i­mate­ly three me­tres long, 2.7 me­tres wide, and has a robot­ic arm with a reach of 2.1 me­tres. The en­vi­ron­ment will be ob­served with the cam­eras on the mast, at a height of about two me­tres.
Mars 2020 landing ellipse in Jezero Crater
Mars 2020 land­ing el­lipse in Jeze­ro Crater
Image 3/3, Credit: © ESA/DLR/FU-Berlin

Mars 2020 landing ellipse in Jezero Crater

This im­age shows the north­west of the 35-kilo­me­tre-wide Jeze­ro Crater north of the Mar­tian equa­tor with the re­mains of an an­cient delta, near which the Mars rover Per­se­ver­ance will land on 18 Febru­ary 2021 at 21:55 CET (sig­nal ar­rival on Earth). The delta was formed by sed­i­ments car­ried along by a riv­er that flowed in­to the crater from the west and whose dried-up val­ley is still clear­ly vis­i­ble to­day. Here, the Per­se­ver­ance rover will search for fos­sil mi­cro­bial life and col­lect sam­ples for lat­er trans­port to Earth. The im­age was ac­quired by DLRs High Res­o­lu­tion Stereo Cam­era (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Ex­press space­craft.

Did life ever exist on Mars? That is what NASA’s Mars 2020 mission is attempting to determine. To do this, the Perseverance rover is searching for traces of past microbial life in Jezero Crater; these are referred to as biosignatures. A lake existed in the crater more than 3.5 billion years ago. Evidence for this is provided by two ancient river deltas in its interior, in the deposits of which numerous water-containing minerals have been detected. These minerals have a particularly high potential for preserving possible biosignatures. With the help of 23 cameras and seven scientific instruments, the rover is analysing the geology of the landing site and looking for signs of past life in rocks and sediments.

Perseverance will also collect rock samples for the first time using a drill. It has a total of 43 tubes for collecting 38 samples, which can be filled with drill cores from depths of up to 20 centimetres. Five 'witness tubes' contain reference materials from Earth to detect possible contaminants. The rover will deposit the sealed sample tubes at a suitable location on Mars. Two future missions planned jointly by NASA and ESA will then bring the 13-millimetre-thick and 60-millimetre-long samples, sealed in their tubes, to Earth in the early 2030s for in-depth analysis. Terrestrial laboratories have different, more varied possibilities for examining the Martian samples than the instruments carried on a rover, which must inevitably be limited in their complexity and size. In addition, investigations can be repeated even after many years.

Perseverance has another first in store – a helicopter drone for testing the first powered flight on another planet.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is represented in the science team of the Mars 2020 mission. In the MASTCAM-Z experiment, scientists are involved in tactical and strategic image planning as well as in the scientific evaluation and processing of the data. The many years of expertise of DLR planetary researchers in Berlin, acquired with the camera technology on board the Mars Express, Dawn, MASCOT/Hayabusa2 and Philae/Rosetta missions, is incorporated into the processing of the stereo camera images. Likewise, DLR is involved in the analysis of measurements with the SuperCam spectrometer as well as in the calibration of the humidity sensors and the data analysis of the MEDA instrument.

Mission data

Launch30 July 2020
Launch locationCape Canaveral, Florida (USA)
Launch vehicleULA Atlas V-541 (two stages)
Mission durationOne Mars year (corresponds to two Earth years)
Mission control centreNASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
Landing on Mars21:55 CET on 18 February 2021
Landing siteJezero Crater
Perseverance rover
Mass1025 kilograms
Dimensions (length x width x height)3 x 2.7 m x 2.1 metres
Number of experimentsSeven
Maximum speed4.2 centimetres per second
Power speed110 watt radioisotope thermoelectric generator

Instruments

  • Mastcam-Z
  • RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars‘ Subsurface Experiment)
  • SuperCam
  • PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry)
  • SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals)
  • MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer)
Technology demonstrators
  • MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment)
  • Ingenuity helicopter

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