Perseverance finds a home on Mars

Mackenzie Dessin

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, the most technologically advanced rover spacecraft, landed on Mars on Feb. 18.

It launched from Cape Canaveral on July 30, traveled 293 million miles and landed in the Jezero Crater. Its mission is to reconnoiter and to pursue signs of ancient life and gather regolith (broken rock and soil) and rock samples.

This is the first 360-degree panorama taken by Mastcam-Z, a zoomable pair of cameras aboard NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. The panorama was stitched together on Earth from 142 individual images taken on Sol 3, the third Martian day of the mission (Feb. 21, 2021).
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU
This is the first 360-degree panorama taken by Mastcam-Z, a zoomable pair of cameras aboard NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/ASU

John Armstrong, a physics professor at Weber State University, described the technological machine as a very capable rover. Like the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will analyze and sample the surface, but it will also collect specimens for a later sample-return mission, allowing more detailed studies in laboratories on Earth.

Perseverance has been on Mars for five sols, which is comparable to about five earth days. The difference is that sols are approximately 40 minutes longer than a standard earth day. However, one year on Mars is about 687 Earth days, which is the expected duration of the mission.

Perseverance weighs over a ton and is roughly ten feet long and 9 feet wide — not including its seven-foot arm. It uses a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator that uses radiation from the decay of Plutonium-238 to provide a continuous power supply. It also possesses two rechargeable lithium batteries that can withstand the rover’s activities and be recharged by the MMRTG while inactive.

According to NASA, Perseverance is just the beginning. It’s the first rover to carry a sample-catching capability that can procure promising samples and be returned to Earth by upcoming voyages.

The state-of-the-art instruments and technology carried by Perseverance are a vital step for further exploration. Its unique ability to be autonomous will allow more terrain to be covered and explored. In addition, this innovative technology will lead space exploration in a highly efficient direction.

The rover bears technology that demonstrates MOXIE, or Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment. Essentially, MOXIE produces oxygen from the carbon dioxide of Mars’ atmosphere, and presents solutions as to how scientists and future explorers may manufacture oxygen for rocket fuel and breathing.

Along with MOXIE, the NASA engineering team has developed two other experimental instruments called Mars Entry, Descent and Landing Instrument 2and Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer. There are seven instruments in total, making those alone a 130-pound payload.

Moreover, NASA built a helicopter named Ingenuity to accompany Perseverance on its mission. While this will help the rover scout locations for further analysis, it’s also just cool,” Armstrong says. Ingenuity or “Ginny” may not have the same sample-collecting capabilities, but the data it gathers will be crucial to any future explorations.

As mentioned before, Ingenuity will help scout locations, meaning it will chart areas of interest and help draft prime driving routes for future rovers. The helicopter alone cost 80 million dollars to build and another five just to operate it. This adds up to a grand total of two billion dollars to build and operate the entire Mars 2020 mission.