A six-wheeled, Mini-sized rover is currently parked on Mars – Top Gear

Posted: February 22, 2021 at 2:16 pm

Big news, space fans! Theres a new six-wheeled, one-tonne exploratory rover the size of a Mini Cooper parked on Mars. Yep, last night, at 8.55pm GMT, NASA pulled off one of the most audacious parking manoeuvres in history so we can find out more about the Red Planet. Which with a bit of Top Gear logic means were now one step closer to the inaugural MarsGP.

Perseverance is the largest, most advanced rover NASA has ever sent to another world, and getting it to land on the Martian planet was no mean feat. Seriously, if the thought of parallel parking into a tight space gives you sweaty palms, youve got to give props to the parking job NASA just pulledoff.

See, Perseverance left Earth seven months ago and has since travelled 293 million miles to Elon Musks future home. Last night, it punctured the Martian atmosphere at a pretty brisk 12,000mph, to then begin its approach to touchdown on the dusty red surface. The spacecrafts self-guided descent included using a heatshield to slow it down to a still-pretty-brisk 1,200mph, before a supersonic parachute (thats a great Indie band name) popped out of the rover to reduce its speed to a more palatable few hundred miles perhour.

Thats when a set of rocket thrusters came in to play to counteract the severe act of falling; slowing it down even further and placing it in a hover about 20 metres above the planets surface. The final act of this complex series of manoeuvres NASA dubbed the seven minutes of terror, was for the rover to be lowered by cables to the surface using a rocket platform called a skycrane.

Unsurprisingly, everyone at mission control lost their beans when flight controller Swati Mohan announcedTouchdown confirmed! Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking signs of past life,and a circus ofsocial-distanced fist-bumping and hollas rang out as PPE clad space scientists began toparty.

The six-wheeled vehicle landed in the Jezero crater, and like anyone in a new environment, will spend the next week or so assessing its surroundings and taking lots of pictures to beam back to its family and friends to post on social media. Then itll get to work, spending at least the next two years drilling into the local rocks, looking for evidence of pastlife.

Why? Well, that spot is thought to have held a giant lake billions of years ago. Because where theres been water, theres the possibility of signs of life. And Perseverance will use its seven cameras and suite of tech to find and sample fossilized remains of ancient microscopic Martian life with the help of a mini-helicopter called Ingenuity. Thats currently strapped to its belly but will be freed for the first powered flight on another planet in history. Now doesnt that soundcool?

Landing on Mars is always an incredibly difficult task and we are proud to continue building on our past success, said JPL Director Michael Watkins. But, while Perseverance advances that success, this rover is also blazing its own path and daring new challenges in the surface mission. We built the rover not just to land but to find and collect the best scientific samples for return to Earth, and its incredibly complex sampling system and autonomy not only enable that mission, they set the stage for future robotic and crewedmissions.

If Perseverance is a success, it then lends itself to human exploration of the Red Planet. And then if thats a success, the possibility of colonisation of that big Red Planet up there, which is what Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are having a pretty expensive tte--tte. Until then, if we hearthat Perseverance is doing six-wheeled drifts around the rim of the Jezero crater (or that its found NASAs Curiosity rover for a drag race), well let youknow.

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A six-wheeled, Mini-sized rover is currently parked on Mars - Top Gear

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