|Part of Mars 2020|
View of Perseverance from the skycrane during landing
|Manufacturer||Jet Propulsion Laboratory|
|Length||2.9 m (9 ft 6 in)|
|Diameter||2.7 m (8 ft 10 in)|
|Height||2.2 m (7 ft 3 in)|
|Launch mass||1,025 kg (2,260 lb)|
|Power||110 W (0.15 hp)|
|Launch date||30 July 2020, 11:50:00 UTC|
|Launch site||Cape Canaveral, SLC-41|
|Landing date||18 February 2021, 20:55 UTC|
|Total hours||306 since landing|
|Distance traveled||0 km (0 mi) |
as of 23 February 2021[update]
Perseverance (nicknamed Percy) is a car-sized Mars rover designed to explore the crater Jezero on Mars as part of NASA's Mars 2020 mission. It was manufactured by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UTC. Confirmation that the rover successfully landed on Mars was received on 18 February 2021 at 20:55 UTC. As of 3 March 2021, Perseverance has been on Mars for 13 sols (13 Earth days).
Perseverance has a similar design to its predecessor rover, Curiosity, from which it was moderately upgraded. It carries seven primary payload instruments, 19 cameras, and two microphones. The rover is also carrying the mini-helicopter Ingenuity, an experimental aircraft that will attempt the first powered flight on another planet.
The rover's goals include identifying ancient Martian environments capable of supporting life, seeking out evidence of former microbial life existing in those environments, collecting rock and soil samples to store on the Martian surface, and testing oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere to prepare for future crewed missions.
- Looking for habitability: identify past environments that were capable of supporting microbial life
- Seeking biosignatures: seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in specific rock types known to preserve signs over time
- Caching samples: collect core rock and regolith ("soil") samples and store them on the Martian surface
- Preparing for humans: test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.
Despite the high-profile success of the Curiosity rover landing in August 2012, NASA's Mars Exploration Program was in a state of uncertainty in the early 2010s. Budget cuts forced NASA to pull out of a planned collaboration with the European Space Agency which included a rover mission. By the summer of 2012, a program that had been launching a mission to Mars every two years suddenly found itself with no missions approved after 2013.
In 2011, the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine containing an influential set of recommendations made by the planetary science community, stated that the top priority of NASA's planetary exploration program in the decade between 2013 and 2022 should be to begin a Mars Sample Return campaign, a three-mission project to collect, launch, and safely return samples of the Martian surface to Earth. The report stated that NASA should invest in a sample-caching rover as the first step in this effort, with the goal of keeping costs under US$2.5 billion.
After the success of the Curiosity rover and in response to the recommendations of the decadal survey, NASA announced its intent to launch a new Mars rover mission by 2020 at the American Geophysical Union conference in December 2012.
Though initially hesitant to commit to an ambitious sample-caching capability (and subsequent follow-on missions), a NASA-convened science definition team for the Mars 2020 project released a report in July 2013 that the mission should "select and store a compelling suite of samples in a returnable cache."
The Perseverance design evolved from its predecessor, the Curiosity rover. The two rovers share a similar body plan, landing system, cruise stage, and power system, but the design was improved in several ways for Perseverance. Engineers designed the rover wheels to be more robust than Curiosity's wheels, which have sustained some damage. Perseverance has thicker, more durable aluminum wheels, with reduced width and a greater diameter (52.5 cm (20.7 in)) than Curiosity's 50 cm (20 in) wheels. The aluminum wheels are covered with cleats for traction and curved titanium spokes for springy support. Like Curiosity, the rover includes a robotic arm, although Perseverance's arm is longer and stronger, measuring 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in). The arm hosts an elaborate rock-coring and sampling mechanism to store geologic samples from the Martian surface in sterile caching tubes.
The combination of larger instruments, new sampling and caching system, and modified wheels makes Perseverance heavier, weighing 1,025 kg (2,260 lb) compared to Curiosity at 899 kg (1,982 lb)—a 14% increase.
The rover's radioisotope thermoelectric power generator (MMRTG) has a mass of 45 kg (99 lb) and uses 4.8 kg (11 lb) of plutonium-238 oxide as its power source. The natural decay of plutonium-238, which has a half-life of 87.7 years, gives off heat which is converted to electricity—approximately 110 watts at launch. This will decrease over time as its power source decays. The MMRTG charges two lithium-ion rechargeable batteries which power the rover's activities, and must be recharged periodically. Unlike solar panels, the MMRTG provides engineers with significant flexibility in operating the rover's instruments even at night, during dust storms, and through winter.
The rover's computer uses the BAE Systems RAD750 radiation-hardened single board computer based on a ruggedized PowerPC G3 microprocessor (PowerPC 750). The computer contains 128 megabytes of volatile DRAM, and runs at 133 MHz. The flight software runs on the VxWorks Operating System, is written in C and is able to access 4 gigabytes of NAND non-volatile memory on a separate card. Perseverance relies on three antennas for telemetry, all of which are relayed through craft currently in orbit around Mars. The primary Ultra high frequency (UHF) antenna can send data from the rover at a maximum rate of two megabits per second. Two slower X-band antennas provide communications redundancy.
JPL built a copy of the Perseverance that stayed on Earth. Called OPTIMISM (Operational Perseverance Twin for Integration of Mechanisms and Instruments Sent to Mars), it is housed at the JPL Mars Yard and is used to test operational procedures and to aid in problem solving should any issues arise with Perseverance.
Mars helicopter experiment
Also traveling with Perseverance is the Mars helicopter experiment named Ingenuity. This solar-powered helicopter drone has a mass of 1.8 kg (4.0 lb). It will demonstrate flight stability and the potential to scout for ideal driving routes for the rover over its planned 30-Martian-day (31-Earth-day) experimental flight test window. If Ingenuity survives its first cold Martian nights, where temperatures dip as low as −90 °C (−130 °F), the team will proceed with the first powered flight of an aircraft on another planet. Other than a camera, it carries no scientific instruments. The helicopter communicates with Earth via a base station onboard Perseverance.
Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen selected the name Perseverance following a nationwide K-12 student "name the rover" contest that attracted more than 28,000 proposals. A seventh-grade student, Alexander Mather from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, submitted the winning entry at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In addition to the honor of naming the rover, Mather and his family were invited to NASA's Kennedy Space Center to watch the rover's July 2020 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.
Mather wrote in his winning essay:
Curiosity. InSight. Spirit. Opportunity. If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious, and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.
The Perseverance rover lifted off successfully on 30 July 2020, at 11:50:00 UTC aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida.
The successful landing of Perseverance in Jezero Crater was announced at 20:55 UTC on 18 February 2021, the signal from Mars taking 11 minutes to arrive at Earth. The rover touched down at , roughly 1 km (0.62 mi) southeast of the center of its 7.7 × 6.6 km (4.8 × 4.1 mi) wide landing ellipse. It came down pointed almost directly to the southeast, with the RTG on the back of the vehicle pointing northwest. The descent stage ("sky crane"), parachute and heat shield all came to rest within 1.5 km of the rover (see satellite image). The landing was more accurate than any previous Mars landing; a feat enabled by the experience gained from Curiosity's landing and the use of new steering technology.
One such new technology is Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN), a technique in which the rover compares images of the surface taken during its descent with reference maps, allowing it to make last minute adjustments to its course. The rover also uses the images to select a safe landing site at the last minute, allowing it to land in relatively unhazardous terrain. This enables it to land much closer to its science objectives than previous missions, which all had to use a landing ellipse devoid of hazards.
The landing occurred in the late afternoon, with the first images taken at 15:53:58 on the mission clock (local mean solar time). The landing took place shortly after Mars passed through its northern vernal equinox (Ls = 5.2°), at the start of the astronomical spring, the equivalent of the end of March on Earth.
Jezero Crater is a paleolake basin. It was selected as the landing site for this mission in part because paleolake basins tend to contain perchlorates. Astrobiologist Dr. Kennda Lynch's work in analog environments on Earth suggests that the composition of the crater, including the bottomset deposits accumulated from three different sources in the area, is a likely place to discover evidence of perchlorates-reducing microbes, if such bacteria is living or was formerly living Mars.
- Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials.
- Radar Imager for Mars' subsurface experiment (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar to image different ground densities, structural layers, buried rocks, meteorites, and detect underground water ice and salty brine at 10 m (33 ft) depth. The RIMFAX is being provided by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI).
- Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), a set of sensors that measure temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, radiation, and dust particle size and shape. It is provided by Spain's Centro de Astrobiología.
- Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce a small amount of oxygen (O
2) from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO
2). This technology could be scaled up in the future for human life support or to make the rocket fuel for return missions.
- SuperCam, an instrument suite that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy in rocks and regolith from a distance. It is an upgraded version of the ChemCam on the Curiosity rover but with two lasers and four spectrometers that will allow it to remotely identify biosignatures and assess the past habitability. Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP) in France, the French Space Agency (CNES), the University of Hawaii, and the University of Valladolid in Spain cooperated in the SuperCam's development and manufacture.
- Mastcam-Z, a stereoscopic imaging system with the ability to zoom.
- Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC), an ultraviolet Raman spectrometer that uses fine-scale imaging and an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds.
Perseverance is planned to visit the bottom and upper parts of the 3.4 to 3.8 billion-year-old Neretva Vallis delta, the smooth and etched parts of the Jezero crater floor deposits interpreted as volcanic ash or aeolian airfall deposits, emplaced before the formation of the delta; the ancient shoreline covered with Transverse Aeolian Ridges (dunes) and mass wasting deposits, and finally, it is planned to climb onto the Jezero crater rim.
NASA plans to invest roughly US$2.75 billion in the project over 11 years, including US$2.2 billion for the development and build of the hardware, US$243 million for launch services, and US$291 million for 2.5 years of mission operations.
Adjusted for inflation, Perseverance is NASA's sixth-most expensive robotic planetary mission, though it is cheaper than its predecessor, Curiosity. Perseverance benefited from spare hardware and "build-to print" designs from the Curiosity mission, which helped reduce development costs and saved "probably tens of millions, if not 100 million dollars" according to Mars 2020 Deputy Chief Engineer Keith Comeaux.
Commemorative and other plates
"Send Your Name to Mars"
NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign invited people from around the world to submit their names to travel aboard the agency's next rover to Mars. 10,932,295 names were submitted. The names were etched by an electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA's "Name the Rover" contest. The first name to be engraved was "Angel Santos." The three chips share space on an anodized plate with a laser engraved graphic representing Earth, Mars, and the Sun. The rays emanating from the Sun contain the phrase "Explore As One" written in Morse code. The plate was then mounted on the rover on 26 March 2020.
Geocaching in Space Trackable
In 2016, NASA SHERLOC co-investigator Dr. Marc Fries — with help from his son Wyatt — was inspired by Geocaching's 2008 placement of a cache on the International Space Station to set out and try something similar with the rover mission. After floating the idea around mission management, it eventually reached NASA scientist Francis McCubbin, who would join the SHERLOC instrument team as a collaborator to move the project forward. The Geocaching inclusion was scaled-down to a trackable item that players could search for from NASA camera views and then log on the site.
In a manner similar to the "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign, the geocaching trackable code was carefully printed on a one-inch, polycarbonate glass disk that serves as part of the rover's calibration target. It will serve as an optical target for the WATSON imager and a spectroscopic standard for the SHERLOC instrument. The disk is made of a prototype astronaut helmet visor material that will be tested for its potential use in manned missions to Mars. Designs were approved by the mission leads at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA Public Affairs, and NASA HQ, in addition to Groundspeak Geocaching HQ.
Tribute to healthcare workers plate
Perseverance launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, which began to affect the mission planning in March 2020. To show appreciation for healthcare workers who helped during the pandemic, an 8 cm × 13 cm (3.1 in × 5.1 in) plate with a staff-and serpent symbol was placed on the rover. The project manager, Matt Wallace, said he hoped that future generations going to Mars would be able to appreciate healthcare workers during 2020.
Media, cultural impact, and legacy
Parachute with secret message
The orange-and-white parachute used by rover to land on Mars contained a secret message that was discovered and deciphered by Twitter users. NASA's systems engineer Ian Clark used binary code to hide the message "Dare mighty things" in the parachute color pattern. The 70-foot-wide parachute consisted of 80 strips of fabric that form a hemisphere-shape canopy, and each strip consisted of four pieces. Dr. Clark thus had 320 pieces with which to encode his secret message. He also included the GPS coordinates for the JPL's headquarters in Pasadena, California (34°11’58” N 118°10’31” W). Clark said that only six people knew about the message before Thursday's landing. The code was found and deciphered in just a few hours after the image was presented by Perseverance's team.
Components of Perseverance
Full look at Perseverance's components at https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/spacecraft/rover/.
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