Today on 30th July 2020 the 1st stage of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission completed. If all goes well, it will be the 5th rover to Mars. Till now the 4 rovers of NASA has already landed on Mars.
- Sojourner: it was the first rover to land on Mars, launched under Mars pathfinder mission. The rover landed on the surface of the red planet in July 1997.
- Spirit and Opportunity: both were launched together under the Mars exploration rover’s mission. The rovers landed in January 2004 to find the evidence of water on Mars.
- Curiosity: it is the most famous rover to date, launched under Mars science laboratory mission. To find if life ever existed on the Planet and lasting water along with right chemical ingredients. It was landed in August 2012.
- Perseverance: launched on July 30, 2020, and landing expected in February 2021. The mission is Mars 2020, to find the evidence of either existing or ever existed life.
Mars 2020 Mission detail
Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program that includes the rover Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter drone. It was launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UTC and is expected to touch down in Jezero crater on Mars on 18 February 2021. The mission was started on 4 December 2012.
Purpose of the mission
The objective of the mission is to search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate, collect carefully selected rock and sediment samples for future return to Earth and demonstrate technology needed for the future human and robotic exploration of Mars.
A key mission requirement is that it must help prepare NASA for its long-term Mars sample-return mission and crewed mission efforts. The rover will make measurements and technology demonstrations to help designers of a future human expedition understand any hazards posed by Martian dust, and will test technology to produce a small amount of pure oxygen.
Mars 2020 rover Perseverance
Perseverance is a Mars rover manufactured by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for use in NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. It carries seven scientific instruments to study the Martian surface at Jezero crater. It carries 23 cameras in total and two microphones.
Design of the rover
The design of the bot is similar to that of Curiosity. Engineers have reduced the width of the wheel but increased the diameter (52.5 centimetres than Curiosity’s 50 centimetres to increase durability. The aluminium wheels are covered with cleats for traction and curved titanium spokes for springy support. The combination of the larger instrument suite and modified wheels makes Perseverance heavier than its predecessor, Curiosity, by 17% (899 kg to 1050 kg).
The rover also comprises with a five-jointed robotic arm measuring 2.1 metres long. The arm will be used in combination with a turret to analyze geologic samples from the Martian surface.
Its power generator (MMRTG) weights 45 kilograms and uses 4.8 kilograms of plutonium dioxide as the source of steady supply of heat that is converted to electricity. The electrical power generated is approximately 110 watts at launch with little decrease over the mission time. Two additional lithium-ion batteries are included to meet peak demands of rover activities when the demand temporarily exceeds the MMRTG’s steady electrical output levels.
The generator offers a 14-year operational lifetime, and it was provided to NASA by the US Department of Energy. Unlike solar panels, the MMRTG provides engineers with significant flexibility in operating the rover’s instruments even at night and during dust storms, and through the winter season.
The rover’s computer uses the BAE RAD750 radiation-hardened single board computer. The computer contains 128 Megabytes of volatile DRAM, and is run at 133 MHz. The flight software is able to access 4 gigabytes of NAND non-volatile memory on a separate card.
Ingenuity the helicopter
The rover is accompanied by the helicopter Ingenuity, which will help Perseverance to scout for locations to study. It is a solar-powered helicopter drone with a mass of 1.8 kilograms that will be tested for flight stability and for its potential to scout the best driving route for the rover.
The Ingenuity is expected to fly up to five times during its 30-day testing and will fly no more than 3 minutes per day. It could potentially cover a distance of up to 300 metres per flight. It is a technology demonstrator that will form the foundation on which more capable helicopters can be developed for aerial exploration of Mars and other planetary targets with an atmosphere.
As the atmosphere of Mars is 99% thicker than earth’s atmosphere. The helicopter is using counter-rotating coaxial rotors about 3.9 ft (1.2 m) in diameter. Its payload is 1.4 kg and contains a high-resolution downward-looking camera for navigation, landing, and science surveying of the terrain, and a communication system to relay data to the 2020 Mars rover.
It is designed to use solar panels to recharge its batteries, which are six Sony Li-ion cells with a nameplate capacity of 2 Ah. Ingenuity is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and uses the Qualcomm flight board distributed by Intrinsyc with a Linux operating system, which also implements visual navigation via a velocity estimate derived from features tracked with a camera.