NASA’s Perseverance rover whizzes on its historic attempt to land on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance rover launched on the final leg of its seven-month journey from Earth en route to an atrocious landing attempt on Thursday on an ancient alien lake bed, where scientists hope to find signs of fossilized microbial life.

Perseverance, the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever flown into another world, was headed for a self-guided landing inside a vast rocky basin called Jezero Crater on the edge of a river delta carved into the red planet billions of years ago. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Los Angeles hope to receive confirmation of the landing and possibly a first image from the rover, shortly after its arrival, is scheduled for 12:55 pm PST (2055 GMT). Those transmissions will be broadcast to Earth from one of the many satellites already in orbit around Mars.

What makes the terrain of Jezero Crater – deeply etched by long-vanished liquid water streams – so appealing to scientists also makes it particularly dangerous as a landing. site. “It’s full of things scientists want to see, but things I don’t want to land on,” Al Chen, head of the JPL’s descent and landing team, told reporters.

Getting Perseverance to its destination in one piece after its 293 million-mile journey, he added, is far away from insured. The multistage spacecraft, whizzing through the Martian atmosphere at 12,000 miles per hour, must perfectly and quickly execute a complex series of self-guided maneuvers to slow its descent, avoid a myriad of superficial dangers and gently plant itself upright on all six the wheels.

The seemingly far-fetched sequence includes a dangerous supersonic parachute drop and a rocket “sky crane” designed to detach. from the entry capsule, flies to a safe landing spot and lowers the rover onto the ropes, before blasting away to crash to a safe distance. The whole process will take place in a heart-pounding interval that NASA engineers almost jokingly call the “seven minutes of terror.”

Because radio waves take 11 minutes to travel one way between Mars and Earth, the SUV-sized rover will have already reached the Martian surface – intact or not – by the time its atmospheric input signal is received at control. of the mission. RESEARCH OF MICROBIAL FOSSILS

NASA scientists describe Perseverance as the most ambitious of nearly 20 US Mars missions dating back to a 1965 Mariner flight. Larger and packed with more instruments than the four Mars rovers that preceded it, the latest probe mobile robotics would build on previous findings that the fourth planet from once the sun was warmer, wetter and perhaps hospitable for life.

The main goal of Perseverance’s $ 2.7 billion two-year effort is to look for signs of microbes that may have flourished on Mars about 3 billion years ago, around the time that life was emerging on Earth. Scientists hope to find biological signatures embedded in ancient sediment samples that Perseverance is designed to extract from Martian rock for analysis on Earth: the first specimens of this type ever collected by humanity from another planet.

Two future missions are planned to recover the samples and return them to NASA in the next decade. The Perseverance payload also includes demonstration projects that could help pave the way for eventual human exploration of Mars, including a device to convert carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere into pure oxygen.

The box-shaped tool is the first to be built to extract a natural resource for direct use for humans from an extraterrestrial environment, according to Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s division of planetary sciences. It would be invaluable for future life support on Mars and for producing rocket propellant to fly astronauts home. Another experimental prototype brought by Perseverance is a miniature helicopter designed to test the first motor-controlled flight of an aircraft to another planet. If successful, the 4-pound whirlybird could lead to low-flying aerial surveillance of distant worlds, JPL officials said.

Should it land safely, Perseverance will have company elsewhere on the red planet. Its immediate predecessor, the Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012 and far outlived its design life, remains operational for NASA, as does the stationary InSight lander, which arrived in November 2018 to study the deep interior of Mars. The United States is certainly not alone in being fascinated by Mars. Just last week, separate probes launched by the UAE and China reached the orbit of Mars. NASA has three satellites on Mars still in orbit, along with two from the European Space Agency.

(This story was not edited by our team of editors and is generated from a feed.)

News Highlights:

  • NASA’s Perseverance rover launched on the final leg of its seven-month journey from Earth en route to an atrocious landing attempt on Thursday on an ancient alien lake bed, where scientists hope to find signs of fossilized microbial life. Perseverance, the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever flown into another world, was headed for a self-guided landing inside a vast rocky basin called Jezero Crater on the edge of a river delta carved into the red planet billions of years ago.
  • NASA’s Perseverance rover whizzes on its historic attempt to land on Mars