Rookie of the Alliance Launch of the Alliance 5 Atlas carrying NASA nuclear powerwas lifted from Cape Canaveral early Thursday, the first step in a ten-year program to look for signs of past microbial life and to collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to the World.
It will take the $ 2.4 billion rover in seven months to reach Mars. When February arrives, it will sink into the ground of a 28-mile-wide crater near the ruins of an ancient river delta and lake deposits where traces of past biological activity can be preserved.
Along with collecting samples for later retrieval from a European Rover, Perseverance will dropto be able to fly above the surface for the first “Wright brothers moment” on Mars. It will test the technology astronauts can one day use to live off the earth by drawing oxygen from the thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide.
Perseverance is the third Mars probe to be launched in the last two weeks, after the spacecraft was sent by the Lord.u . It is also the most ambitious, building on the success of eight previous landings on Mars.
This is NASA’s first mission explicitly designed to look for signs of life in another world.
“We’re doing transformative science,” said Matt Wallace, the deputy project manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “For the first time, we are looking for signs of life on another planet. And for the first time, we will be collecting samples that will be part of it, hopefully, the first sample will return from another planet. And there are many other firsts along the road. “
After months of careful assembly and testing amidst coronavirus work restrictions, the long-awaited mission finally began at 7:50 am EDT when the first stage of the Atlas RD-180 engine 5 built in Russia and four strap boosters with solid propellant were turned on, generating a combined 2.3 million pounds of traction.
The 197-foot-tall rocket and its payload stopped stopping at about 1.2 million pounds, and the excessive power of the liftoff resulted in a faster-than-usual takeoff away from the launch complex. 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In just 35 seconds, the Atlas 5 was traveling faster than the sound and four minutes later, when the RD-180 was turned off and the first stage crashed, the vehicle was more than 300 miles from the launch site, nearly 100 miles above and moving. at over 13,400 mph.
At that point, the second powerful Centaur hydrogen-powered stage passed, and continued to take off into space with an Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine. Two Centaur shots were needed to boost the Perseverance Rover and its planetary cruising stage to an Earth exit speed of about 26,000 mph.
The Centaur flight computer was programmed to release the rover and cruise stage on an accurate trajectory to a point in space 292 million miles away where Mars will be next February.
The rover’s descent to the surface, famously described as “seven minutes of terror,” begins when it leaves the Martian atmosphere at more than 12,000 mph, its heat shield remaining at temperatures up to 2,370. degree before its rocket powered sky “crane” jet pack lowers it to the surface on the end of the lashings.
The target landing site, Jezero Crater, has an ancient river channel that cuts a single edge and a clearly visible delta that stretches across the crater land. The river that flowed, some 3 to 4 billion years ago, filled a basin the size of Lake Tahoe.
“A delta is where you get the deposition of a lot of raw material (material), basically mud,” said scientist Ken Farley. “So the mud comes in, is carried into the river, hits the smooth water of the Lake and the mud settles.
“The beauty of this is that anything carried on the river that could have been life, or things that lived in the lake, will bury in this (favorable) environment … So we know we have an habitable environment with a high preservation potential. “
Perseverance,following a national competition, it is equipped with a complex sampling and packaging system. As the mission progresses, a drill at the end of a robot arm collects key samples that are sealed in small, ultra-clean tubes and deposited in precise locations.
The long-term plan calls on a NASA lander to deliver a European Space Agency rover to bring in the samples. The rover will return to the launcher, loading the samples into a NASA-supplied rocket that launches a sample container into Mars orbit. A European spacecraft will then capture the container and bring it back to Earth in 2031.
“If it sounds complicated, it is,” said Lori Glaze, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters. “But NASA’s investments in the development of autonomous robots and the landing of large loads on Mars have laid the groundwork for a successful sample return campaign.”