Tomorrow, NASA plans to launch the Perseverance rover (and its helicopter, Ingenuity) to Mars. The launch window opens at 11:50 UTC (07:50 Eastern US time) and is about two hours long.
First things first: If you want to watch it live, you can always rely on NASA's livestream, and/or their YouTube and Twitch channels. Also, The Planetary Society is hosting a virtual launch party starting at 11:30 UTC (07:30 ET) with guests and information; it's free but you need to register to join in.
The launch will be using an Atlas V rocket, which should put on a good show. It's a big rocket, and will give the mission a push hard enough to get it to arrive at Mars on 18 February 2021.
So what's this mission about? In a word: Life. In two words: Martian life. In slightly more words: Looking for direct evidence of ancient life of Mars, looking for conditions that could've supported life then or still possibly can now, as well as seeing if it's possible for humans to explore Mars.
In many ways Perseverance is like the previous rover Curiosity; they use the same chassis and overall architecture both in the rover as well as the landing system (remember the Seven Minutes of Terror?). But there are big differences. One main one is that Perseverance has a drill that will allow it to get core samples of interesting rocks, and then store the samples in containers that it will leave behind on the surface to be picked up later by a future mission (TBD).
Also, there's a helicopter. A helicopter! Ingenuity is mounted under Perseverance, and will be placed on the ground to do a series of short flights over the next 30 days. It has a mass of less than two kilos, but the twin counter-rotating rotors are over a meter across; the air on Mars is less than 1% as thick as on Earth at sea level, so it needs big props. It's basically a technology tester, to see if such flight is not only possible but also beneficial in exploring Mars.
I was surprised that it can fly only generating 350 Watts of power. Those blades will spin at 2000+ RPM! It's a marvel of engineering, and a standout in a mission that's already pretty exciting.
Perseverance is also equipped with two microphones, to literally listen to Mars. This is an idea that was first proposed long ago, but has run into many difficulties over time. One microphone will listen during descent and landing that should be very cool and the other will listen when the SuperCam instrument uses its laser to zap rocks in order to identify their constituent minerals. That should be very nifty as well.
Perseverance will land in Jezero Crater, an impact feature roughly 50 km across. It has evidence of having been a lake long ago, and has clay deposits that are not only evidence of water (clays get laid down by water) but also a good place to look for anything wee ancient beasties might have left behind.
Of course, there's a lot more going on with the rover; for a more complete rundown, as always I urge you to seek out The Planetary Society site which has quite a bit of info, and, of course, the NASA page for the mission.
If for some reason the launch tomorrow is delayed, there are many more opportunities to get it off the ground, with the overall launch opportunity closing on 15 August. The date range is due to the positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits, and the time each day is when the tilt and rotation of the Earth put the Florida launch site in the correct spot to maximize the force on the rocket (the Earth spinning acts like a centrifuge, adding extra velocity to the spacecraft).
Let's hope we get a nominal countdown and launch, and another pair of robots have a clean getaway from Earth and head for the Red Planet.
Go here to see the original:
- 'It just sounds like a thud': astronomers hear biggest cosmic event since big bang - The Guardian - September 4th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from September 4 to 11 - Astronomy Magazine - September 4th, 2020
- A nearby supernova could have caused the Devonian mass extinction - Astronomy Magazine - September 4th, 2020
- Great Basin National Park astronomy festival to be held mostly virtually this month - FOX5 Las Vegas - September 4th, 2020
- Indian astronomers discover one of the farthest galaxies in the universe - Moneycontrol - September 4th, 2020
- Breaking down the astronomical number of mail-in ballot requests in NC - CBS17.com - September 4th, 2020
- Meet The Woman Behind Ninjas Astronomical Success: Jessica Blevins - Forbes - September 4th, 2020
- Tesla To Cash in on Astronomical Stock Price With $5 Billion Capital Raise - The Drive - September 4th, 2020
- A supernova that left chaos in its wake - SYFY WIRE - September 4th, 2020
- The ghost of an angry black hole still haunts this galaxy - SYFY WIRE - September 4th, 2020
- Amazon Satellites Add to Astronomers Worries About the Night Sky - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- The Last Stargazers? Why You Will Never See An Astronomer Looking Through A Telescope - Forbes - August 10th, 2020
- Ceres: An ocean world in the asteroid belt - Astronomy Magazine - August 10th, 2020
- Small stars are vital to dispersing the building blocks of life - Astronomy Magazine - August 10th, 2020
- Bookmonger: 'The Last Stargazers' is a behind-the-scenes look at astronomy - Discover Our Coast - August 10th, 2020
- Explore Pollinators And Islamic Astronomy This Week With PEEC - Los Alamos Reporter - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers May Have Identified The Biggest Impact Structure in Our Solar System - ScienceAlert - August 10th, 2020
- ASTRONOMY: When it comes to night sky, be prepared! - Mdcp.nwaonline.com - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers Say That Planets Orbiting Black Holes Are Called "Blanets" - Futurism - August 10th, 2020
- Because the Universe isn't weird enough: Black hole planets may exist. - SYFY WIRE - August 10th, 2020
- When the supermassive black hole's away, the stars will play - SYFY WIRE - August 10th, 2020
- A Star Went Supernova in 1987. Where Is It Now? - The New York Times - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers Part of Pasadena-Based Carnegie's Team Reveal 'Last of its Kind' Remnant of Ancient Globular Cluster - Pasadena Now - August 10th, 2020
- NASA is changing some insensitive space terminology - heres why - Linlithgow Journal and Gazette - August 10th, 2020
- VLT Measures Main-Belt Asteroid Euphrosyne and Its Moon | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - August 10th, 2020
- View On Astronomy: Perseids meteor shower an annual attraction - The Independent - August 10th, 2020
- A Globular Cluster was Completely Dismantled and Turned Into a Ring Around the Milky Way - Universe Today - August 10th, 2020
- Could JWST Discover the Largest Object in the Universe? Now. Powered by - Now. Powered by Northrop Grumman. - August 10th, 2020
- Here's How Exploding Stars Forged The Calcium in Your Teeth And Bones - ScienceAlert - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers find the largest impact crater in the solar system - FREE NEWS - August 10th, 2020
- See the 'space butterfly' astronomers captured from thousands of light years away - CNN - August 8th, 2020
- The best place to see stars from Earth also happens to be the coldest place on the planet - Space.com - August 8th, 2020
- Astronomical First: Differences Detected Between Discs of Active and Non-Active Galaxies - SciTechDaily - August 8th, 2020
- Rivers on ancient Mars may have flowed beneath sheets of ice - Astronomy Magazine - August 8th, 2020
- Move over, SpaceX Amazon is sending its own satellites into orbit - Salon - August 8th, 2020
- Amateur Astronomers Find a Saturn-Sized Planet in The Habitable Zone of a Distant Star - ScienceAlert - August 8th, 2020
- Astronomy Apps Market Expected to Witness the Highest Growth 2025 - AlgosOnline - August 8th, 2020
- Saturn-Sized Exoplanet Discovered by the Gravitational Wobble in the Small, Cool Star It Orbits - SciTechDaily - August 8th, 2020
- 9 of the Best Books About Astronomy - Book Riot - August 8th, 2020
- Prof Melvin Hoare is Driving Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy - Space in Africa - August 8th, 2020
- Top astronomical events to look forward to in August 2020 - Wales Online - August 7th, 2020
- A Strange Planet has been Found thats Smaller than Neptune But 50% More Massive - Universe Today - August 7th, 2020
- What planets should we search to find alien life? - Astronomy Magazine - August 4th, 2020
- Mars 2020 launch: NASA's Perseverance rover ready for the Red Planet - Astronomy Magazine - August 4th, 2020
- A Movie of the Evolving Universe Is Potentially Scary - Scientific American - August 4th, 2020
- Mini-Neptunes could be super-Earths with bloated atmospheres of water - Astronomy Magazine - August 3rd, 2020
- A Movie of the Evolving Universe, Potentially Scary - Scientific American - August 3rd, 2020
- Study: Universe Might Be 1.2 Billion Years Younger | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - August 3rd, 2020
- Stargazing: Astronomers estimate Earth-size planets number in the billions - Oklahoman.com - August 3rd, 2020
- Boosting the representation of Black students - Symmetry magazine - August 3rd, 2020
- There are Natural Starshades Out There, Which Would Help Astronomers Image Exoplanets - Universe Today - August 3rd, 2020
- How astronomers rediscovered a lost world - EarthSky - August 3rd, 2020
- Antonia: A Maury to be Proud Of - Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber - August 3rd, 2020
- SpaceX: Crew Dragon is returning to Earth here's when to hold your - Astronomy Magazine - August 3rd, 2020
- Neuroscience, astronomy, animal behavior, and more: Black scientists are showcasing their research on social media - Massive Science - August 2nd, 2020
- The CO2 Elephant in the Room: Curbing the Carbon Footprint of Astronomy - Astrobites - August 2nd, 2020
- Scientists Find The Best Place on Earth For Viewing The Night Sky, But There's a Catch - ScienceAlert - August 2nd, 2020
- Mind-blowing Astronomy Photo of the Year competition reveals strange galaxies and space portals - The Sun - August 2nd, 2020
- Innovative balloon-borne telescope promises rich infrared reward - Astronomy Now Online - August 2nd, 2020
- Astronomers just spotted ancient stars lurking at the edges of our galaxy - BGR - August 2nd, 2020
- Astronomers found a bunch of ancient stars displaced by our galaxy - BGR - July 31st, 2020
- Astronomy - Wikipedia - July 31st, 2020
- astronomy | Definition & Facts | Britannica - July 31st, 2020
- Astronomy for Beginners | Night Sky Facts, FAQs ... - July 31st, 2020
- What is Astronomy? Definition & History | Space - July 31st, 2020
- Mars shifting sands revealed by long-term observations - Astronomy Magazine - July 31st, 2020
- Astronomers nab the farthest visible explosion from a neutron star collision ever seen - SYFY WIRE - July 31st, 2020
- A&M-Commerce Planetarium & Observatory Offer the Universe to Students and Community - frontporchnewstexas.com - July 31st, 2020
- This Is the Single Best Place To Stargaze on Earth - Popular Mechanics - July 30th, 2020
- Apple TV+ has Acquired the Rights to the Original Astronomy Documentary 'Fireball' - Patently Apple - July 30th, 2020
- Hitting the reset button | Lifestyles - Enid News & Eagle - July 29th, 2020
- Astronomers Discover One of the Coolest Transiting Gas Giants | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - July 29th, 2020
- A Faraway Solar System Is an Uncanny Reflection of Our Own - The Atlantic - July 29th, 2020
- Gamma-Ray Telescopes Can Measure the Diameters of Other Stars - Universe Today - July 29th, 2020
- Astronomers Capture the First Ever Photo of Two Planets Orbiting a Sun-Like Star - PetaPixel - July 29th, 2020
- Thanks to astronomy, researchers in Texas figure out the time, date, and year of Vermeer's "View of Delft" - Art Critique - July 29th, 2020
- Thinking Outside the Classroom: Astronomical phenomena you can see during the day - Summit Daily News - July 29th, 2020
- Astronomy news: Never before seen cosmic structures spotted in distant galaxy - Daily Express - July 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Do the Math to Figure Out Exactly When Johannes Vermeer Painted this, More than 350 Years Ago - Universe Today - July 26th, 2020
- Pinning down the suns birthplace just got more complicated - Science News - July 26th, 2020