Mars2020 - Searching for traces of past life
Mars rover Perseverance and helicopter IngenuityOn 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 PerseveranceArtist'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 CraterThis 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.
- DLR Blog about the mission
|Launch||30 July 2020|
|Launch location||Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA)|
|Launch vehicle||ULA Atlas V-541 (two stages)|
|Mission duration||One Mars year (corresponds to two Earth years)|
|Mission control centre||NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)|
|Landing on Mars||21:55 CET on 18 February 2021|
|Landing site||Jezero Crater|
|Dimensions (length x width x height)||3 x 2.7 m x 2.1 metres|
|Number of experiments||Seven|
|Maximum speed||4.2 centimetres per second|
|Power speed||110 watt radioisotope thermoelectric generator|
Flight over Jezero Crater – landing site of the Mars 2020 mission
A simulated flight over Jezero Crater on Mars. Home to a standing body of water more than 3.5 billion years ago, this crater is where NASA’s Mars 2020 mission Perseverance rover will land to search for signs of past microbial life. The video is based on data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Mars since 2003. HRSC is operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
DLR planetary research and NASA's Mars 2020 mission
For decades, Mars has played an important role in the Solar System research activities of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It has become increasingly clear that Earth’s neighbour in space shared more similarities with Earth in its early days than it does today. It is therefore considered to be the planet on which the existence of life long ago – or perhaps even today – is most conceivable. DLR scientists are involved in NASA’s Mars 2020 mission with the Perseverance rover, particularly for image processing and evaluation. In this video, they explain the scientific context of the mission, the process of the extremely technically demanding landing on Mars and the geology of the landing site in the Jezero Crater.
Animation: Flight over Jezero crater on Mars
The video shows a simulated flight over Jezero crater on Mars. An old river delta near the western rim of the crater testifies that it once housed a lake. The 'Perseverance' rover of NASA's Mars 2020 mission is scheduled to land here in February 2021 and search for traces of earlier life on Mars. DLR is represented on the mission's science team and is involved in the evaluation of the data and images.
NASA's Perseverance rover listens in the thin Martian atmosphereMars has a very thin atmosphere, which at the surface has a density approximately one percent that of Earth's. Until recently, it was unclear whether there is anything to hear in the barren landscape there and if it is even possible for sound to be recorded under these conditions.
Precision landing on Mars on 18 February – transmitting images and soundOn 18 February 2021, NASA will initiate the most precise landing ever attempted on the Red Planet. A spacecraft with the Perseverance rover on board will enter the Martian atmosphere at around 21:38 (CET) at just under 19,500 kilometres per hour.
An in-depth look at the geological context of the Mars 2020 landing site through the eyes of DLR's HRSC instrumentOn Thursday, 18 February 2021, at approximately 21:55 CET, NASA's control centre in Pasadena should receive the radio signal indicating that the Perseverance rover has been gently lowered onto the surface of Mars by a 'sky crane' as part of NASA's Mars 2020 mission.
Mars 2020 – a virtual visit to Jezero CraterToday, on the evening of 18 February 2021, NASA's Mars 2020 mission will set down the rover 'Perseverance' in Jezero Crater at 21:55 (CET). With these image products, the landing site of the most powerful of all Mars rovers to date can be explored on screen.
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will search for traces of past microbial life with the Perseverance roverWith Perseverance, its most complex Mars rover to date, NASA is opening a new chapter in the search for traces of ancient life on Mars. The launch of the new rover is scheduled to take place on 30 July 2020 at 13:50 CEST on board an Atlas V launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral in Florida.