MARS 2020 is underway with the successful launch of the Atlas V rocket that flies to Mars with the new robotic vehicle that next year will explore the red planet in search of microbial life as its primary mission.
MARS 2020 is an essential project for the arrival of the human being on Mars and the subsequent colonization process. Its main payload is Perseverance, a six-wheeled mobile science lab who will follow in the footsteps of previous Martian rovers such as Curiosity, Vision, Spirit, and Opportunity.
Perseverance is equipped with the same exoskeleton as its predecessor Curiosity and features seven main instruments, including the Mastcam-Z that will be the eyes of the rover with its panoramic and stereoscopic cameras with a new zoom system. SuperCam is another of the main ones, it can operate remotely and is in charge of taking images, performing chemical composition analysis and mineralogy.
Also included are a spectrometer, an environment analyzer for organic and chemical products (SHERLOC) and a high resolution imager to map the composition of the top layer of the planet. QPerhaps the most interesting instrument for future manned missions is the one dedicated to the search for oxygen (MOXIE), with the mission of demonstrate that oxygen could be produced from carbon dioxide found in the Martian atmosphere.
The overall goal is investigate the geological processes of Mars and assess the habitability of the planet, looking for signs of existence of life and checking if there has been any case of preservation of bioforms in geological materials. The rover will take samples that will be kept for recovery in future missions.
MARS 2020 carries another unique component: Ingenuity. It is little more than a drone with its two kilograms of weight and 1.2 meters in size. But it will be one of the most interesting and novel scientific loads of the new Mars exploration mission. He will be bound and protected in the belly of Perseverance during his descent to the red planet and will be deposited on the surface below it.
Once grounded, it will perform a health check and your solar panels will begin charging its batteries. If everything goes as planned, its two rotors will start spinning the twin propellers at 2,400 revolutions per minute, it will soar over Mars, and its two cameras will start taking pictures in the skies of the red planet.
Be the first time such an air vehicle is deployed to an off-Earth planet. That will be his most important contribution: demonstrating that flight on Mars is possible as a valuable contribution to other types of exploration and paving the way for other drones of greater dimensions and possibilities.
After yesterday’s launch, MARS 2020 has seven months to go. If all goes as planned, Perseverance will first touch the surface of the red planet in Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.