NASA’s Perseverance rover is now operating on its own using more than 7,000 lines of code, as it prepares to for the ‘seven minutes of terror’ before landing on the Mars.
The descent of the $2.2billion car-sized spacecraft will be live streamed by NASA from 2:15 pm ET (7:15pm GMT) and will show Perseverance trying to endure the so-called ‘seven minutes of terror’.
This refers to the tumultuous conditions which batter the craft as it enters the Martian atmosphere and approaches the surface.
The rover is traveling 7,750 miles per hour as it flies through space, and has some 100 miles from its target.
Thomas Zurbuchen, of the NASA Science Mission directorate, said it was an exciting day to think we’re looking to bring samples of Mars back to Earth.
‘We’re turning our rover into a robotic geologist and astrobiologist, collecting samples that we will be bringing back to Earth, that is what we’re looking forward to,’ he said.
When the spacecraft reaches the atmosphere it will shoot through the sky like a comet.
Temperatures are expected to exceed 2,000°F and a supersonic parachute will be deployed to slow the rover down from its entry speed of around 12,000mph — quick enough to travel from London to New York in 15 minutes.
Perseverance, if all goes to plan, will touch down at the base of an 820-foot-deep (250 meters) crater called Jezero, a former lake which was home to water 3.5 billion years ago.
It will drill into Mars and collect geological specimens before caching them throughout the crater. They will retrieved by a follow-up mission which will return them to Earth in 2031.
The Martian surface is litter with craters but what makes Jezero Crater so special is that it an inflow and outflow channel, which suggests it was filled with water some 3.5 billion years ago.
The descent of the $2.2billion car-sized spacecraft will be live streamed by NASA from 2:15 pm ET (7:15pm GMT) and will show Perseverance trying to endure the so-called ‘seven minutes of terror’ (pictured, the NASA schedule for the manoeuvre
The spacecraft carrying the rover will separate ten minutes before atmosphere entry and Perseverance will then enter Mars’ atmosphere at around 12,000 miles per hour — quick enough to travel from London to New York in 15 minutes. This rapid speed generates a huge amount of air resistance and friction which warms Perseverance up to an enormous temperature in excess of 2,000°F
The spacecraft will shoot through Mars’ atmosphere moving at 12,000 miles per hour, but then must slow down to zero miles per hour seven minutes later in order to land safely on the surface
Perseverance ‘seven minutes of terror’ timeline
US time (ET)
UK time (GMT)
Live stream begins
Spacecraft separates from Perseverance
Peak heating of 2,370°F
Heat shield separation
Back shell separation
Touchdown on Martian surface
Radio signals between Perseverance and NASA take 11 minutes to be sent due to the time it takes for the signals to travel all the way to Mars and back again.
As a result, Perseverance’s on-board computers and 19 cameras are entirely responsible for the descent.
Unlike previous NASA rovers to Mars — Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity — Perseverance is purposely being sent to a more treacherous part of the red planet.
This is because the Jezero Crater is thought to be an extinct lake and is also close to curious rock formations, all of which are of great scientific interest back on Earth.
The massive crater is said to have once flowed with water and is littered with carbonates and hydrated silica.
Carbonates similar to those at the crater’s inner rim have been found in fossils on Earth which are billions of years old. Hydrated silica is known for its ability to preserve biosignatures.
Dr Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: ‘The landing zone will be close to the former shore line and in an area where we might expect to come across signs of organic molecules from the Martian past captured in sediments.’
However, the 28-mile wide region is littered with uneven surfaces and boulders, making landing and navigation a tricky proposition.
‘It is not guaranteed that we will be successful,’ Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement earlier this week.
To increase the chance of success, Perseverance is the first mission to be fitted with ‘Terrain Relative Navigation’ which will take images of the Martian surface during the descent. The information gathered from this will be used to inform the rover’s decision as to where it will land.
Swati Moha, the Navigation and Control Operations Lead on the Mars 2020 mission, said this is ‘finally like landing with your eyes open’.
A parachute is deployed at around four minutes into the descent, when the rover is still seven miles from the surface. NASA says this is a critical step and involves the biggest parachute ever sent to another planet
A landing harness carrying Perseverance which is fitted with eight rocket thrusters takes control of the descent after the parachute is jettisoned process and will slow the craft down from 190 miles per hour to a mere 1.7 miles per hour while also steering the lander
The final stage of the landing is where the rocket-powered craft will attempt the same maneuver for landing as the Curiosity did in 2012 using the sky crane. Nylon cords will lower Perseverance 25 feet below and after it touches down on the Martian surface, the cords will detach and the sky crane will fly away
NASA has sent a number of orbiters to Mars, which allowed them to find Perseverance’s target – the 28-mile Jezero Crater (pictured). The Jezero Crater is thought to be an extinct lake and is also close to curious rock formations, all of which are of great scientific interest back on Earth
The first act of Perseverance — which has been based on the blueprint of Curiosity and is the seven feet tall, nine feet wide and weighs 2,260 pounds — will be to release its accompanying Ingenuity helicopter (pictured). The copter will fly at an altitude that is similar to 100,000 feet on Earth, allowing it to gather geology data in areas the rover is unable to reach
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter preps for its ‘Wright brothers moment’
The American space agency is gearing up to launch its Perseverance rover along with the helicopter after it completes its landing later today.
Named Ingenuity, the copter will fly at an altitude that is similar to 100,000 feet on Earth, allowing it to gather geology data in areas the rover is unable to travel.
NASA is comparing this mission ‘to the Wright brothers moment,’ as it will be the first time in history an aerial vehicle has flown on another world.
This will be the first time a terrestrial helicopter has not only flown at such altitudes, but also the first time it will take flight on another planet.
‘Since the Wright brothers first took to the skies of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, December 17, 1903, first flights have been important milestones in the life of any vehicle designed for air travel,’ NASA said in a statement
The spacecraft carrying the rover will separate ten minutes before atmosphere entry and Perseverance will then enter Mars’ atmosphere at around 12,000 miles per hour.
This rapid speed generates a huge amount of air resistance and friction which warms Perseverance up to an enormous temperature in excess of 2,000°F. The brunt of this thermal energy is absorbed by a heat shield, which sits between the rover itself and the outside.
As it careers through the atmosphere the spacecraft will then continue to guide itself using bursts from on-board jets.
A parachute is then deployed around four minutes into the descent, when the rover is still seven miles from the surface. NASA says this is a critical step and involves the biggest parachute ever sent to another planet.
Once the parachute has deployed, the heat shield is also discarded as it is now surplus to requirements.
This allows the cameras of Perseverance to start studying the terrain below and scour for a potential landing spot.
Around 90 seconds later, the backshell — the back half of the entry capsule that is fastened to the parachute — is also jettisoned 1.7miles above the Martian surface.
A landing ‘jetpack’ which cradles Perseverance and is fitted with eight rocket thrusters will then take control of the descent process.
It will complete the final approach to the surface and slow the craft down from 190 miles per hour to a mere 1.7 miles per hour while also steering the lander.
The craft will then attempt the ‘skycrane’ maneuver which was first developed for Curiosity in 2012.
Nylon cords will hold Perseverance 25 feet below the jetpack and gently place the rover down on the red soil.
Radio signals between Perseverance and NASA take 11 minutes and 22 seconds to be sent due to the time it takes for the signals to travel all the way to Mars and back again. As a result, Perserverence’s on-board computers and 19 cameras are entirely responsible for the descent
This NASA photo from 2019 shows the head of the Mars rover Perseverance’s remote sensing mast which contains the SuperCam instrument in the large circular opening, two Mastcam-Z imagers in gray boxes, and next to those, the rover’s two navigation cameras
Perseverance will make oxygen on Mars
The primary task for Perseverance is to search for signs of microbial life and take soil samples, but it will also conduct a host of other jobs during its operational window of one Martian year one (687 Earth days).
One of these, for example, involves investigating if Mars’ natural resources can be turned into oxygen to make breathable air for astronauts and also to make rocket fuel for return missions.
This task is called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE).
Future crewed missions to Mars will require oxygen for astronauts to breathe. Carrying oxygen from Earth to Mars is heavy and expensive.
MOXIE is designed to see if it is possible to extract oxygen from Mars and turn it into breathable air.
Mars atmosphere is more than 95 per cent of carbon dioxide and less than 0.15 per cent oxygen.
Moxie will take Martian air, heat it to 800°C, inject energy into a pair of electrodes and this then separates oxygen from the CO2.
Oxygen is pumped out of one line and waste gase are spewed out of another.
At this point, the craft will cut the nylon cords and fly away to ensure it does not damage Perseverance.
Dr Brown says the whole process is fraught with danger.
‘You never know what Mars throws at you for surprises while the lander carries out these complex manoeuvres by itself,’ he adds.
NASA will then establish a radio connection with the rover before Perseverance does a series of checks and then starts its experiments and investigations.
The first act of Perseverance — which has been based on the blueprint of Curiosity and is the seven feet tall, nine feet wide and weighs 2,260 pounds — will be to release its accompanying Ingenuity helicopter.
The copter will fly at an altitude that is similar to 100,000 feet on Earth, allowing it to gather geological data in areas the rover is unable to reach.
This exceptional height is made possible due to the thin atmosphere on Mars, which is just 1/1,000 as thick as Earth’s. Its two levels of blades will rotate in opposite directions at up to 2,400 rpm.
This will be the first time a terrestrial helicopter has not only flown at such altitudes, but also the first time it will take flight on another planet.
NASA is comparing this mission ‘to the Wright brothers moment’ and believes Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future.
Perseverance’s primary goal is to look for ‘biosignatures’ — signs of past or present microbial life — as well as gathering rock samples which will be picked up by another mission in 2026.
The rover will drill into the dusty surface and gather material into titanium, germ free tubes that will be placed in the vehicle’s belly.
NASA aims to gather at least 20 samples with a variety of material that can be brought back to Earth for further analysis.
Perseverance’s primary goal is to look for ‘biosignatures’ — signs of past or present microbial life — as well as gathering rock samples which will be picked up by another mission in 2026. However, it is equipped with a host of tools which will perform a variety of tasks
UK scientists play key part in NASA mission to red planet
More than £400,000 in funds from the UK Space Agency Have been provided for the development of Perseverance.
Researchers at Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum will also be involved in deciding which Martian samples are sent to Earth.
The research destination is Jezero crater, a 28-mile-wide depression containing sediments of an ancient river delta. At this location, evidence of past life could be preserved.
The Perseverance rover will gather samples of Martian rocks and soil using its drill. The rover will then store the sample cores in tubes on the Martian surface ready for a return mission to bring around 30 samples to Earth in the early 2030s.
Back on Earth, Professor Sanjeev Gupta from Imperial College London will help NASA oversee mission operations from a science and engineering point of view and Professor Mark Sephton, also from Imperial College London, will be helping to identify samples of Mars that could contain evidence of past life.
Professor Caroline Smith, from the Natural History Museum, will be studying the mineralogy and geochemistry of the different rocks found in Jezero Crater.
Dr Keyron Hickman-Lewis, also from the Natural History Museum, will be studying the environments reflected by sedimentary rocks exposed in Jezero Crater and the potential for the preservation of ancient microbial life within.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: ‘The Red Planet has been a source of fascination for centuries, and it is thrilling to be that little bit closer to finding out if there is life on Mars.
‘I am incredibly grateful to the scientists, researchers and engineers involved in this effort from the UK and around the world, and trust that it will inspire a new generation of space scientists across the country.’
Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, adds: ‘Over the next few years, our scientists will play a leading role in this international endeavour, from managing science operations to deciding which samples are to be returned to Earth.
‘Perseverance will bring us one step closer to answering the question that’s been on the lips of Bowie fans and scientists for the last forty years.’
NASA has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) for the follow up mission to retrieve the samples, with at least two crafts expected for the project.
‘In 2026, we’re going to launch a mission from Earth to Mars to go pick up those samples and bring them back to Earth,’ NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said previously.
‘For the first time in history, we’re doing a Mars sample return mission.’
British researchers and the UK Space Agency are also involved in this process.
Academics at Imperial and the Natural History Museum will help decide which samples of Martian terrain should be saved and returned by the ESA mission.
The British Government provided almost half a million pounds towards the Perseverance project.
The rover itself is estimated to have cost $2.2billion (£1.6billion) to build, according to the
Its launch atop the Atlas V 541 rocket likely cost a further $243million (£174.5million) and the two-year cost of operations is estimated to run up a bill of a further $300million (215million), taking the total estimated cost of Perseverance to $2.7billion (£1.94billion).
All of Perseverance’s missions on Mars will be orchestrated by its 19 cameras and powered 10.6 pounds of plutonium carried in a custom container roughly the size of a bucket.
The plutonium provides 2,000 watts of thermal power and will last for around 14 years. NASA says.
Other work of Perseverance, which is scheduled to be operational for one Martian year (687 Earth days), involves investigating if materials found on Mars can be utilised to facilitate return missions.
This task is called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) and is preparing for human exploration of Mars.
One goal of MOXIE is to convert elements of the carbon dioxide-rich Martian atmosphere into oxygen.
If successful, this will lay out the blueprint for how future crewed missions will turn the Martian atmosphere into rocket fuel and breathable air for astronauts.
Once the ESA mission collects and returns the samples of Mars to Earth in 2031, scientists will cut the slabs into thin sheets of rock in order to determine if individual microbial cells are hiding in the samples.
Perseverance is also fitted with other instruments, including advanced cameras, radar, and a laser.
The rover will use its high-powered laser, called SuperCam, at the top of its mast to shoot high-energy pulses capable of vaporizing rocks up to 20 feet away.
The laser beam heats the target to 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to transform the solid rock into plasma that can be imaged by a camera for further analysis.
Perseverance is a six-wheeled vehicle which is the same size as a large car and it will be accompanied by an autonomous four pound (1.8kg) helicopter called Ingenuity which will study Martian atmosphere
Perseverance launched on July 30 from Cape Canaveral Florida aboard a United Launch Alliances Atlas V rocket following probes also sent to Mars by the UAE and China
History of NASA landing on Mars
The Red Planet’s surface has been visited by eight NASA spacecraft and Perseverance – the ninth – will be the first that involves gathering samples to bring home.
Viking 1 and Viking 2 landed in July and September of 1976, respectively.
NASA’s first Mars rover, Sojourner, landed in July 1997 aboard the Pathfinder lander.
A rover called Spirit landed within the impact crater Gusev in January 2004.
Opportunity, the twin of Spirit, landed three weeks later on the flat plains of Meridiani Planum in 2004.
A robotic spacecraft called Phoenix touched down in May 2008 to research the history of water on Mars.
The car-sized rover Curiosity landed in 2012 and is still active.
NASA’s lander InSight landed in November 2018.
InSight is the only active lander and Curiosity the only currently working rover after Opportunity died in 2018.
This instrument will help researchers identify minerals that are beyond the reach of the rover’s robotic arm or in areas too steep for the rover to go.
Although the rover is very similar in design to Curiosity, it has a new array of sensors and equipment, including, for the first time, microphones.
These will record what the entry, descent and landing sounds like, as well as revealing any noises on the surface of Mars.
Dr Brown said: ‘Not only will we then be able to see a region of Mars in all its detail, but also handle material from there and hear what it would be like standing there.
‘Indeed a striking achievement of rover technology when it all comes together this evening. I can’t wait.’
Perseverance launched on July 30 from Cape Canaveral Florida aboard a United Launch Alliances Atlas V rocket following probes also sent to Mars by the UAE and China.
The recent spate of launches to Mars is because astronomers are keen to take advantage of a rare alignment in the orbits of Earth and Mars which makes the red planet relatively close and accessible for a period of a few weeks.
The United States has plans to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s under a program that envisions using a return to the moon as a testing platform for human missions before making a more ambitious crewed journey to Mars.
Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates become the first Arab nation and only the fifth nation overall to place a spaceship in orbit around Mars.
The country’s space probe, called Hope, officially entered Mars orbit at around 16:15 GMT on February 9.
Hope will be the first probe to provide a complete picture of planet’s atmosphere and its layers, according to the UAE.
China’s orbiter and rover combo – named Tianwen-1 – successfully reached Martian orbit on February 10.
Our 5,000-year obsession with the Red Planet: As NASA’s Perseverance rover touches down today, we reflect on human’s long journey to explore Mars since our ancestors first named their deities for the distant planet
By Stacy Liberatore for DailyMail.com
NASA’s Perseverance rover is today set to land on Mars to search for signs of life and although the mission has been years in the making, the red planet has been part of our culture for thousands of years.
The first record of the Martian world appeared around the third millennium BC, which described it as a God of War and it wasn’t until the mid-1800s did Mars shed its reputation as a deity and become a planet – opening up a world of possibilities.
National Geographic’s Mars issue focuses on ‘Our Obsession With Mars,’ in which it explores how the red planet is embedded in our past and what new discoveries Perseverance will uncover during its two-year mission.
‘Kathryn Denning [a doctor of Anthropology at York University in Canada] told me, ‘Mars doesn’t push back all the hard against our imaginations’,’ Nadia Drake, science journalist and space enthusiasts, told DailyMail.com.
‘I think about that and I think about the photos we have from the Martian surface that look so similar to Earth – it isn’t that hard to think about walking across that surface.’
NASA’s Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars today (concept image) to search for signs of life and although the mission has been years in the making, the red planet has been part of our culture for thousands of years
NASA’s Perseverance rover is currently speeding through space at 47 miles per hour and is scheduled to touch down at 8:55pm GMT.
Perseverance will spend the next two years hunting for ‘biosignatures’ of past microbial life and collect rock core samples in slender, metal tools that will be cached on the Martian surface to be retrieved in 2026 for a return trip to Earth.
Although the rover is the brainchild of many intelligent and skilled scientists, it may have been the first skygazers who birthed the idea to first visit Mars.
The Babylonians first spotted a glittering object in the night sky around 400BC, but the ancient civilization never explained what it was, only naming it Nergal, the king of conflicts.
Ancient Greeks called the planet Areas, after their god of war, while the Romans (pictured) gave it the name that has lasted through the ages – Mars
Ancient Greeks called the planet Areas, after their own God of War, while the Romans gave it the name that has lasted through the ages, Mars.
From there, Mars transformed into many other deities, and was later recorded as a ‘fixed star’ by ancient Egyptian astronomers.
It wasn’t until 1610 when Galileo Galilei conducted the first observation that determined the object to be a planet.
By the mid-1800s, telescopes allowed astronomers to take the first look at Mars’ mysterious terrain, which revealed it had weather, dusty landscapes and ice caps like those on Earth.
‘In the mid-1800s, you could start to see surface features and shifting terrain, and people were really into mapping Mars,’ said Drake.
‘At the time, people were mapping places on Earth to gain control and Mars got caught up in that as well.’
‘They would just draw what they saw. I’ve tried to do it and it is very difficult.’
In 1887, Giovanni Schiaparelli, who was the director of the Brera Observatory in Milan, began mapping and naming areas on Mars.
He saw ‘seas’ and ‘continents’ across the mysterious world, along with channels he called ‘canals.’
Schiaparelli colored areas he believed held water in blue and labeled features on planet after places in Mediterranean mythologies.
Maria Lane, a historical geographer the University of New Mexico, told Drake: ‘That was a really massively bold statement to make.’
‘It’s basically him saying, I saw so much stuff that was so different from what anyone else had seen, I can’t even use the same names.’
Schiaparelli’s maps inspired an astronomer in Boston, Percival Lowel, to build his own private observatory.
Lowell concluded the canals were real after observing hundreds stretched across the Martian landscape and believed they had been created by an intelligent civilization skilled in engineering.
These theories led to the famous ‘War of the World’s novel by H.G. Wells in 1898, which paved the way for an entirely new genre of alien science fiction.
In 1887, Giovanni Schiaparelli, who was the director of the Brera Observatory in Milan, began mapping and naming areas on Mars. He saw ‘seas’ and ‘continents’ across the mysterious world, along with channels he called ‘canals.’ Schiaparelli colored areas he believed held water in blue and labeled features on planet after places in Mediterranean mythologies
But Lowell’s theories and other fascinating stories about Mars fell apart in 1907, when astronomers took images using telescopes – ‘planetary photography eventually replaces cartography as truth,’ Drake wrote.
And decades later, humans were finally able to see the Red Planet up-close.
NASA sent its Mariner 4 probe into space in 1965, which snapped the first images of the mystifying world.
The black and white images transformed the idea of a watery world home to skilled beings into a grainy, cratered landscape that seemed to without life.
‘Once we sent the first craft in the 1960s we saw nothing of the sort,’ Drake said.
‘It was cratered and looked like the moon, which was very disappointing for people who thought they found signs of life.
‘Then every time we got a sharper and sharper look at mars it looks less likely that it is inhabit.’
NASA followed up Mariner 4 with two Viking missions that landed on the northern hemisphere of Mars in 1967.
The landers sent back images that were disappointing – no signs of life, no footprints in the dust.
The pictures also revealed the planet’s soil had hints of perchlorates, which are compounds that kill organic molecules and may have erased any signs of life that may have once called Mars home.
‘We’ve always wanted to find life on Mars, but the harder we look the less likely we will find it,’ Drake said.
The obsession with Mars has turned into a race among many nations, which all hope to be the first to discover life.
NASA MARS 2020: THE MISSION WILL SEE THE PERSEVERANCE ROVER AND INGENUITY HELICOPTER SEARH FOR LIFE
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will search for signs of ancient life on on the Red Planet in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on Earth.
Named Perseverance, the main car-sized rover will explore an ancient river delta within the Jezero Crater, which was once filled with a 1,600ft deep lake.
It is believed that the region hosted microbial life some 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago and the rover will examine soil samples to hunt for evidence of the life.
Nasa’s Mars 2020 rover (artist’s impression) will search for signs of ancient life on Mars in a bid to help scientists better understand how life evolved on our own planet
The $2.5 billion (£1.95 billion) Mars 2020 spaceship launched on July 30 witht he rover and helicopter inside – and will land on February 18, 2021.
Perseverance is designed to land inside the crater and collect samples that will eventually be returned to Earth for further analysis.
A second mission will fly to the planet and return the samples, perhaps by the later 2020s in partnership with the European Space Agency.
This concept art shows the Mars 2020 rover landing on the red planet via NASA’s ‘sky-crane’ system
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