The folks at NASA always impress with the amount and quality of the media they provide for space enthusiasts to sift through. Recently I stumbled upon a ton of images and videos about the Mars 2020 robotic mission currently zooming toward a February 2021 touchdown.
NASA is targeting Jezero Crater for the landing. One of its spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, includes instruments that indicate water filled the crater off and on over the last 3.5 billion years, forming a huge lake. NASA intends to send Perseverance along the ancient shoreline to search for microbial fossils .
The illustration below shows the Mars 2020 spacecraft “exploded” to show its several parts. The top contains a solar array to power the craft during its interplanetary trip, a set of thrusters with fuel for small course corrections, and radio antennas to maintain contact with flight control. Next comes the backshell, which fits together with the heat shield at the bottom to encase the descent stage and rover. The backshell also contains a parachute to slow the craft during initial entry into the Martian atmosphere.
During the final descent to the surface, the backshell and heatshield fly away. The descent stage, firing thrusters, slows to a near hover and lowers the rover by cables to the surface.
Once the rover touches down, the descent stage flies off to its own landing. Perseverance unpacks itself and sets about analyzing the crater. Check the image below for the seven instruments the car-sized vehicle carries. Among its objectives are mapping the surface and subsurface, and understanding their mineral, chemical, and organic content; and recording atmospheric measurements of wind speed, barometric pressure, and humidity.
Hitching a ride on Perseverance is Ingenuity, a small helicopter. Its mission is to become the first machine to fly under its own power on another planet.
Perseverance is scheduled to land on February 18, 2021. Check out NASA’s Mars 2020 portal for tons of multimedia and real-time updates about the mission.
“Basics of Space Flight: Trajectories.” Solar System Exploration. NASA.
“Instruments (on Perseverance).” NASA.
“Jezero Crater, Mars 2020’s Landing Site.” NASA.
“Mars 2020 Mission Perseverance Rover.” NASA.
“Mars 2020/Perseverance (objectives, timeline, instruments).” NASA.
McLaughlin William I. “Walter Hohmann’s Roads In Space.” JPL/NASA.
“Mars 2020 Mission Overview and Quick Facts.” NASA.
“Perseverance Rover’s Landing Site: Jezero Crater.” NASA.
“Perseverance Rover at Halfway Point.” NASA.
“The Perseverance Rover Landing.” NASA.
“This Helicopter is Going to Mars.” NASA.