NASA’s Perseverance rover
About the Perseverance rover
- NASA launched its Mars Perseverance Rover on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020. The rover landed at Jezero Crater in February 2021.
- The Mars 2020 mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key questions about the potential for life on Mars. The Perseverance rover is the centrepiece of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.
- The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet.
- Two other NASA landers are also operating on Mars — 2018’s InSight and 2012’s Curiosity rover.
- Perseverance is the biggest, most sophisticated Mars rover ever built — a car-size vehicle bristling with cameras, microphones, drills and lasers.
- The rover will hunt for signs of habitable environments on Mars while searching for signs of past microbial life.
- The plutonium-powered, six-wheeled rover will drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be brought back to the earth in about 2031 by a series of missions.
- The analysis of Martian rocks on Earth will likely provide a reliable indication of whether life on Mars is feasible in the past or at present.
- Perseverance will explore the Jezero Crater, which is an ancient lakebed where microbial life could have developed.
- Perseverance carried a unique instrument, MOXIE or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment which produced molecular oxygen from the thin Martian atmosphere for the first time. It promises hope for future crewed missions that can rely on this technology for astronauts to breathe and return to Earth.
- On Mars, carbon dioxide makes up ~96% of the gas in the planet’s atmosphere. Oxygen is only 0.13%, compared to 21% in Earth’s atmosphere. Like a tree on Earth, MOXIE inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen.
- To produce oxygen, MOXIE separates oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide molecules. It does so by using heat at a temperature of around 800 degrees Celsius, and in the process also produces carbon monoxide as a waste product, which it releases in the Martian atmosphere.
Ingenuity Mars Helicopter
- The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration, carried by the Perseverance rover. A technology demonstration is a project that seeks to test a new capability for the first time, with limited scope.
- Ingenuity helicopter has made the first powered flight on another planet.
- It is significant given that Mars’ thin atmosphere (which is 99% less dense than Earth’s) makes it difficult to achieve enough lift.
Why in News?
- NASA’s Perseverance rover is close to completing its first set of objectives on MARS.
- The NASA robot has collected a diverse set of rock samples that it will soon deposit on the surface, awaiting carriage to Earth by later missions. The goal is to have the samples back on Earth in 2033.
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