Perseverance – The Mars Rover – Fiorella Beausang-Hunter – Latymer Upper School – This is Local London

Posted: March 3, 2021 at 1:47 am

On Thursday 18th February, the Mars rover Perseverance landed at the Jezero Crater after having been launched six and a half months earlier on July 30th from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and will remain there for at least one Mars year (687 Earth days). Its main job is going to be to find evidence of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for possible return to Earth. It will also test the oxygen production on the planet to prepare for the feasible habitation of humans on Mars. In addition, there is a helicopter that hitched a ride with the rover, named Ingenuity, which will be used to test the first powered flight on Mars.

Acting as the brains of the metal creature, the rover has two computers, one being backup, which help with monitoring its condition, exchanging information with the team back on Earth and navigating the rock terrain of the red planet, so they carry out the same functions as a human brain. The computers run at 200 megahertz speed, which is 10 times faster than the computers of the other two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. They have an incredible amount of memory, with 2 GB of flash memory, which is 8 times as much as other rovers on Mars, 256 MB of RAM and 256 KB of ROM. The memory is even radiation proof to survive through space and the Martian surface. All of this is protected by the rovers body, or the warm electronics box, WEB for short. The helicopters mass is 1.8kg, and it can fly up to 300 meters an altitude of 5 meters. Its power comes from lithium ion batteries, which are charged by a solar panel. This gives it enough energy for a 90-second flight per Martian day.

Back in 2011, when NASA found evidence of water on Mars, the world was buzzing about possible alien life. Now they hadnt actually found water, but the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had detected evidence of hydrated salts where there were mysterious dark streaks on the red planet. Scientists suggested that it was most likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening. However, two years later, additional research was done which interpreted the streaks as granular flows, where it was sand and dust slipping downhill causing the dark streaks, not seeping water. The hydrated salts that the Orbiter detected do suggest that there is some water on Mars, whether that be in the form of ice or liquid water. When the rock and soil samples are returned from Perseverance, we might be able to see some more evidence of water. If there evidence of water, it could mean that there could was life on Mars, which could be in the form of humans or aliens like you would see in a sci-fi movie.

In November 1964, the first successful flybys of Mars were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Mariner 3 was launched on November 5th but did not make it to Mars, as the protective casing on the spacecraft failed to open properly, so it was lost during the launch. However, Mariner 4 was launched 3 weeks later, and successfully made it to Mars. It first flew past the red planet in July of 1965, and took the first close-up photographs of another planet. There had been 6 previous attempts to get to Mars made by the Soviet Union, all of which had failed due to launch and spacecraft failures, but their first (partially) successful mission was Mars 2 in 1971. The orbiter was successful, but the lander crashed into Mars, and with it went the rover. This was, however, the first impact on Mars. The most recent NASA mission to Mars was the 2018 InSight mission, consisting of a lander and two flybys, all of which were successful. The missions purpose was to look at the geology of the planet, specifically the interior structure. There are two planned NASA missions for the next decade. The first is another rover, set to launch in 2022. This will be a part of a series of missions in collaboration with the ESA and Roscosmos to find out if there was ever life on Mars. The one after is another sample return, set to launch in 2026, and land on Mars in late 2027/2028. This mission is specifically focused on the concept of sample return, and with Perseverance being part of the first mission to conduct sample return on another planet, it is a fairly new concept. The mission will last for about 5 years, returning in 2031.

Many of the Mars missions are now focused on finding out if there was life on the planet, and testing new techniques such as the previously mentioned sample return. Soon focus will be shifted onto human colonization, if possible. Soon we might see the first human on Mars, maybe as soon as 2026. If the climate situation on Earth gets worse, we may have to leave to survive, and colonizing other planets will not be a choice, but a necessity.

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Perseverance - The Mars Rover - Fiorella Beausang-Hunter - Latymer Upper School - This is Local London

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