The Mars 2020 Perseverance
images credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Over the past two decades, missions flown by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program have shown us that Mars was once very different from the cold, dry planet it is today. Evidence discovered by landed and orbital missions point to wet conditions billions of years ago. These environments lasted long enough to potentially support the development of microbial life.
The Mars 2020/Perseverance rover is designed to better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of ancient life. The mission will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth in the future. It will also test new technology to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars.
- Explore a geologically diverse landing site
- Assess ancient habitability
- Seek signs of ancient life, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
- Gather rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by a future NASA mission
- Demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration
Perseverance will carry seven instruments to conduct unprecedented science and test new technology on the Red Planet.
Rover Size and Dimensions
Perseverance’s body and other major hardware (such as the cruise stage, descent stage, and aeroshell/heat shield) build upon the success of NASA’s Curiosity rover and include many heritage components. The car-sized Perseverance rover has roughly the same dimensions as Curiosity: it’s about 10 feet long (not including the arm), 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall (about 3 meters long, 2.7 meters wide, and 2.2 meters tall). But at 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms), Perseverance is about 278 pounds (126 kilograms) heavier than Curiosity.
Perseverance will also test new technology for future robotic and human missions to the Red Planet. That includes an autopilot for avoiding hazards called Terrain Relative Navigation and a set of sensors for gathering data during the landing (Mars Entry, Descent and Landing Instrumentation 2, or MEDLI2). A new autonomous navigation system will allow the rover to drive faster in challenging terrain. As with Curiosity, Perseverance’s baseline power system is a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. It uses the heat from the natural decay of plutonium-238 to generate electricity.
Also attached to the belly of NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is the first aircraft humanity has sent to another planet to attempt powered, controlled flight. They will land together in Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.
Jul 30, 2020
NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red Planet
NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is on its way to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples to send back to Earth.
"With the launch of Perseverance, we begin another historic mission of exploration," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This amazing explorer's journey has already required the very best from all of us to get it to launch through these challenging times. Now we can look forward to its incredible science and to bringing samples of Mars home even as we advance human missions to the Red Planet. As a mission, as an agency, and as a country, we will persevere."
The ULA Atlas V's Centaur upper stage initially placed the Mars 2020 spacecraft into a parking orbit around Earth. The engine fired for a second time and the spacecraft separated from the Centaur as expected. Navigation data indicate the spacecraft is perfectly on course to Mars.
Mars 2020 sent its first signal to ground controllers via NASA's Deep Space Network at 9:15 a.m. EDT (6:15 a.m. PDT). However, telemetry (more detailed spacecraft data) had not yet been acquired at that point. Around 11:30 a.m. EDT (8:30 a.m. PDT), a signal with telemetry was received from Mars 2020 by NASA ground stations. Data indicate the spacecraft had entered a state known as safe mode, likely because a part of the spacecraft was a little colder than expected while Mars 2020 was in Earth's shadow. All temperatures are now nominal and the spacecraft is out of Earth's shadow.
When a spacecraft enters safe mode, all but essential systems are turned off until it receives new commands from mission control. An interplanetary launch is fast-paced and dynamic, so a spacecraft is designed to put itself in safe mode if its onboard computer perceives conditions are not within its preset parameters. Right now, the Mars 2020 mission is completing a full health assessment on the spacecraft and is working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars.
The Perseverance rover's astrobiology mission is to seek out signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the diverse geology of its landing site, Jezero Crater, and demonstrate key technologies that will help us prepare for future robotic and human exploration.
"Jezero Crater is the perfect place to search for signs of ancient life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Perseverance is going to make discoveries that cause us to rethink our questions about what Mars was like and how we understand it today. As our instruments investigate rocks along an ancient lake bottom and select samples to return to Earth, we may very well be reaching back in time to get the information scientists need to say that life has existed elsewhere in the universe."
The Martian rock and dust Perseverance’s Sample Caching System collects could answer fundamental questions about the potential for life to exist beyond Earth. Two future missions currently under consideration by NASA, in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency), will work together to get the samples to an orbiter for return to Earth. When they arrive on Earth, the Mars samples will undergo in-depth analysis by scientists around the world using equipment far too large to send to the Red Planet.
February 18, 2021
Touchdown! Perseverance lands successfully on Mars
Perseverance rover – formerly called Mars 2020 – became the first artificial object to land on Mars since the Insight Mars lander in 2018. It was the first rover to land since Curiosity touched down in 2012. Perseverance is the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world.
Images credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU
April 19, 2021
Taking Flight on Another World
The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is a technology demonstration to test powered, controlled flight on another world for the first time. It hitched a ride to Mars on the Perseverance rover. Once the rover reached a suitable "airfield" location, it released Ingenuity to the surface so it could perform a series of test flights over a 30-Martian-day experimental window.
The helicopter completed its technology demonstration after three successful flights. For the first flight on April 19, 2021, Ingenuity took off, climbed to about 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground, hovered in the air briefly, completed a turn, and then landed. It was a major milestone: the very first powered, controlled flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars, and, in fact, the first such flight in any world beyond Earth. After that, the helicopter successfully performed additional experimental flights of incrementally farther distance and greater altitude.
April 30, 2021
Ingenuity's Fourth Flight
NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter took these images on its fourth flight, on April 30, 2021, using its navigation camera. The camera, which tracks surface features below the helicopter, takes images at a rate at which the helicopter’s blades appear frozen in place, despite making 21 full rotations in-between each image. In flight, the blades spin at 2,537 rpm. The images are aligned entirely using Ingenuity's on-board position tracking system highlighting the stability and accuracy of the navigation algorithm.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
More Images from Perseverance
Images credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
June 9, 2021
Ingenuity's Fourth FlightNASA's Perseverance Rover Begins Its First Science Campaign on Mars
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
On June 1, NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover kicked off the science phase of its mission by leaving the “Octavia E. Butler” landing site. Until recently, the rover has been undergoing systems tests, or commissioning, and supporting the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter’s month of flight tests.
During the first few weeks of this first science campaign, the mission team will drive to a low-lying scenic overlook from which the rover can survey some of the oldest geologic features in Jezero Crater, and they’ll bring online the final capabilities of the rover’s auto-navigation and sampling systems.
The science goals of the mission are to study the Jezero region in order to understand the geology and past habitability of the environment in the area, and to search for signs of ancient microscopic life. The team will identify and collect the most compelling rock and sediment samples, which a future mission could retrieve and bring back to Earth for more detailed study. Perseverance will also take measurements and test technologies to support future human and robotic exploration of Mars.
Spanning hundreds of sols (or Martian days), this first science campaign will pursue all of the mission’s science goals as the rover explores two unique geologic units in which Jezero’s deepest (and most ancient) layers of exposed bedrock and other intriguing geologic features can be found. The first unit, called “the Crater Floor Fractured Rough,” is the crater-filled floor of Jezero. The adjacent unit, named “Séítah” (meaning “amidst the sand” in the Navajo language), has its fair share of Mars bedrock but is also home to ridges, layered rocks, and sand dunes.
Most of the challenges along the way are expected to come in the form of sand dunes located within the mitten-shaped Séítah unit. To negotiate them, the rover team decided Perseverance will drive mostly either on the Crater Floor Fractured Rough or along the boundary line between it and Séítah. When the occasion calls for it, Perseverance will perform a “toe dip” into the Séítah unit, making a beeline for a specific area of interest.
The goal of the campaign is to establish what four locations in these units best tell the story of Jezero Crater’s early environment and geologic history. When the science team decides a location is just right, they will collect one or two samples.
The first science campaign will be complete when the rover returns to its landing site. At that point, Perseverance will have traveled between 1.6 and 3.1 miles (2.5 and 5 kilometers) and up to eight of Perseverance’s 43 sample tubes could be filled with Mars rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). Next, Perseverance will travel north then west toward the location of its second science campaign: Jezero’s delta region. The delta is the fan-shaped remains of the confluence of an ancient river and a lake within Jezero Crater. The location may be especially rich in carbonates – minerals that, on Earth, can preserve fossilized signs of ancient life and can be associated with biological processes.
A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech