National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) is preparing to launch its Mars 2020 mission next week in a week-long launch window opening, July 30th to August 15th.
In a report on website Engadget, Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator at the Science Mission Directorate is ecstatic of the launch. “Next week, the United States returns to Mars,” he was quoted saying.
The Mars 2020 mission is taking the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter with it in her maiden voyage.
Perseverance, which is NASA’s most capable rover to date, is touted by Dr. Zurbuchen as the space agency’s ‘first mission of astrobiology’. It is also the longest rover to date at almost 10 feet and heaviest at 2260 pounds. It is heavier compared to Curiosity. The mission’s landing target is planned to be at the red planet’s Jezero crater. The choice was strategic for it is the site of an ancient river delta roughly the size of Lake Tahoe and NASA personnel hope that the mission can help discover remnants of ancient life in the area.
Zurbuchen declared that Perseverance ‘will bring all human senses to Mars”. Adding that the machine’s built-in sensors will detect and gather crucial data during the mission’s whole course such as Mar’s air, document its horizon, as well as sampled the rocks’ chemistry that is found on the planet’s surface.
She is also expected to provide crucial empirical data to aid future travels on the planet. She is expected to conduct a handful of scientific experiments from studying the planet’s air to conducting terrain mapping activities.
Perseverance will be manned remotely by a team of scientists during what they call the landing areas ‘pots of gold’ – areas that are considered ‘points of interest’ wherein the rover mission can gather useful data and biosignatures.
The Ingenuity helicopter meanwhile, will cover the planet’s atmosphere if it can. It is noteworthy that due to the planet’s very thin atmosphere, keeping any object afloat is a daunting task. Yet, with the Mars 2020 mission, scientists at NASA want to prove otherwise. If it’s airworthy, she would be able to explore new horizons unable to be tapped before due to technical limitations.
Perseverance and Ingenuity, the Mars 2020 duo, will not be alone on the red planet on their stay there. They’ll be accompanied by the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s Hope rover, launched last week, and is expected to arrive at the same time as the two. Mainland China’s Tianwen-1 is expected to join in the fray when it arrives early next year.