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Perseverance (rover) facts for kids

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Perseverance
Part of Mars 2020
PIA23491-Mars2020Rover-ObtainingSamples-20200210.jpg
Artist's representation of the Perseverance rover collecting samples.
Other name(s)
  • Mars 2020 rover
  • Percy
Type Mars rover
Manufacturer Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Technical details
Length 2 m (6 ft 7 in)
Diameter 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in)
Height 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in)
Launch mass 1,025 kg (2,260 lb)
Power 110 W (0.15 hp)
Flight history
Launch date 30 July 2020, 11:50 UTC
Launch site Cape Canaveral, SLC-41
Landing date 18 February 2021, 20:55 UTC
Landing site Jezero crater
Total hours 421 since landing
Instruments
  • EDL cameras
  • Hazcams
  • Mastcam-Z
  • MEDA
  • Microphones
  • MOXIE
  • Navcams
  • PIXL
  • RIMFAX
  • SHERLOC
  • SuperCam
Mars 2020 JPL second insignia.svg
NASA Mars rovers

Perseverance, nicknamed Percy, is a car-sized Mars rover designed to explore Jezero crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars 2020 mission. It was manufactured by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and was launched on 30 July 2020, at 11:50 UTC. Confirmation that the rover had landed on Mars was received on 18 February 2021 at 20:55 UTC. As of 8 March 2021, Perseverance has been on Mars for 17 sols (17 Earth days).

Perseverance carries seven new scientific instruments and has a total of 19 cameras and two microphones. The rover is carrying the mini-helicopter Ingenuity, an experimental aircraft that will attempt the first powered flight on another planet.

Mission

Science objectives

The Perseverance rover has four science objectives that support the Mars Exploration Program's science goals:

  1. Looking for habitability: identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
  2. Seeking biosignatures: seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs over time.
  3. Caching samples: collect core rock and regolith ("soil") samples and store them on the Martian surface.
  4. Preparing for humans: test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.

History

Perseverance's first photo
Perseverance – first raw image (Front Left Hazard Avoidance Camera) – Mars landing (18 February 2021)

Despite the high-profile success of the Curiosity rover landing in August 2012, NASA's Mars Exploration Program was in a state of uncertainty in the early 2010s. Budget cuts forced NASA to pull out of a planned collaboration with the European Space Agency and to cancel a follow-up rover mission. By the summer of 2012, a program that had been launching a mission to Mars every two years suddenly found itself with no missions approved after 2013.

In 2011, the Planetary Science Decadal Survey, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine containing an influential set of recommendations made by the planetary science community, stated that the top priority of NASA's planetary exploration program in the decade between 2013 and 2022 should be to begin a Mars Sample Return campaign, a three-mission project to collect, launch, and safely return samples of the Martian surface to Earth. The report stated that NASA should invest in a sample-caching rover as the first step in this effort, with the goal of keeping costs under US$2.5 billion.

After the success of the Curiosity rover and in response to the recommendations of the decadal survey, NASA announced its intent to launch a new Mars rover mission by 2020 at the American Geophysical Union conference in December 2012.

Though initially hesitant to commit to an ambitious sample-caching capability (and subsequent follow-on missions), a NASA-convened science definition team for the Mars 2020 project released a report in July 2013 that the mission should "select and store a compelling suite of samples in a returnable cache".

Design

PIA23499-Mars2020Rover-FirstTestDrive-20191217a
Perseverance in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California

The Perseverance rover represents an evolution in design from its predecessor, the Curiosity rover. The two rovers share a similar body plan, landing system, cruise stage, and power system. The new rover incorporates many lessons from Curiosity, however. Engineers designed the Perseverance rover wheels to be more robust than Curiosity's wheels, which have sustained some damage. The rover has thicker, more durable aluminum wheels, with reduced width and a greater diameter (52.5 cm (20.7 in)) than Curiosity's 50 cm (20 in) wheels. The aluminum wheels are covered with cleats for traction and curved titanium spokes for springy support. Like Curiosity, the rover includes a robotic arm, although Perseverance's arm is longer and stronger, measuring 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in). The arm hosts an elaborate rock-coring and sampling mechanism to store geologic samples from the Martian surface in ultra-clean caching tubes.

The combination of the larger instrument suite, new Sampling and Caching System, and modified wheels makes Perseverance 14% heavier than its predecessor (1025 kg as opposed to 899 kg).

The rover's power generator (MMRTG) has a mass of 45 kg (99 lb) and uses 4.8 kg (11 lb) of plutonium-238 oxide as its power source. The natural decay of Plutonium-238 gives off heat which is converted to electricity – approximately 110 watts at launch. This will decrease over time as its power source decays. The MMRTG charges two lithium-ion rechargeable batteries which power the rover's activities, and must be recharged periodically. Unlike solar panels, the MMRTG provides engineers with significant flexibility in operating the rover's instruments even at night and during dust storms, and through winter.

The rover's computer uses the BAE RAD750 radiation-hardened single board computer. The computer contains 128 megabytes of volatile DRAM, and runs at 133 MHz. The flight software is able to access 4 gigabytes of NAND non-volatile memory on a separate card.

Also traveling with Perseverance is the Mars helicopter experiment, named Ingenuity. This solar-powered helicopter drone has a mass of 1.8 kg (4.0 lb). It will demonstrate flight stability and the potential to scout for ideal driving routes for the rover over its planned 30-day mission. Other than a camera, it carries no scientific instruments.

Name

Mars 2020 Rover Name Announcement (NHQ202003050031)
Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen announced the rover's official name, Perseverance, on 5 March 2020, at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. Zurbuchen made the final selection following a 2019 nationwide naming contest that drew more than 28,000 essays by K-12 students from every U.S. state and territory.

Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen selected the name Perseverance following a nationwide K-12 student "name the rover" contest that attracted more than 28,000 proposals. A seventh-grade student, Alexander Mather from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia, submitted the winning entry at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. In addition to the honor of naming the rover, Mather and his family were invited to NASA's Kennedy Space Center to watch the rover's July 2020 launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Mather wrote in his winning essay:

Curiosity. InSight. Spirit. Opportunity. If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious, and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.

Mars transit

The Perseverance rover lifted off successfully on 30 July 2020, at 11:50 UTC aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The rover took about seven months to travel to the Red Planet and made its landing in Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021, to begin its science phase.

WJEZ-1
Map of West Jezero Crater
Preseverance Mars Landing Spot
The arrow shows the spot on Mars where the Perseverance rover landed (clickable image).

Landing

The successful landing of Perseverance in Jezero Crater was announced at 20:55 UTC on 18 February 2021.

Instruments

PIA19672-Mars2020Rover-ScienceInstruments-20150610
Diagram illustrating the locations of scientific instruments aboard Perseverance.

NASA considered nearly 60 proposals for rover instrumentation. On 31 July 2014, NASA announced the seven instruments that would make up the payload for the rover:

  • Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials.
  • Radar Imager for Mars' subsurface experiment (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar to image different ground densities, structural layers, buried rocks, meteorites, and detect underground water ice and salty brine at 10 metres (33 ft) depth. The RIMFAX is being provided by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI).
  • Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), a set of sensors that measure temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, radiation, and dust particle size and shape. It is provided by Spain's Centro de Astrobiología.
  • Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce a small amount of oxygen (O
    2
    ) from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO
    2
    ). This technology could be scaled up in the future for human life support or to make the rocket fuel for return missions.
  • SuperCam, an instrument suite that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy in rocks and regolith from a distance. It is an upgraded version of the ChemCam on the Curiosity rover but with two lasers and four spectrometers that will allow it to remotely identify biosignatures and assess the past habitability. Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP) in France, the French Space Agency (CNES), the University of Hawaii, and the University of Valladolid in Spain cooperated in the SuperCam's development and manufacture.
  • Mastcam-Z, a stereoscopic imaging system with the ability to zoom.
  • Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC), an ultraviolet Raman spectrometer that uses fine-scale imaging and an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds.

There are additional cameras and, for the first time on a Mars probe, two audio microphones, that will be used for engineering support during landing, driving, and collecting samples.

Images for kids

Upon landing, Perseverance immediately began to send images of its surrounding area, in front of and behind the rover using its onboard Hazard Avoidance Cameras.

Cost

Perseverance cost chart
NASA's annual costs for the Perseverance rover over its development and prime mission.

NASA plans to invest roughly US$2.75 billion in the project over 11 years, including US$2.2 billion for the development and build of the hardware, US$243 million for launch services, and US$291 million for 2.5 years of mission operations.

Adjusted for inflation, Perseverance is NASA's sixth-most expensive robotic planetary mission, though it is cheaper than its predecessor, the Curiosity rover. Perseverance benefited from spare hardware and "build-to print" designs from the Curiosity mission, which helped reduce development costs and saved "probably tens of millions, if not 100 million dollars" according to Mars 2020 Deputy Chief Engineer Keith Comeaux.

Commemorative and other plates

"Send your name to Mars"

NASA's "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign invited people from around the world to submit their names to travel aboard the agency's next rover to the Red Planet. 10,932,295 names were submitted. The names were etched by an electron beam onto three fingernail-sized silicon chips, along with the essays of the 155 finalists in NASA's "Name the Rover" contest. The first name to be engraved was "Angel Santos". The three chips share space on an anodized plate with a laser engraved graphic representing Earth, Mars and the Sun. The plate was then mounted on the rover on March 26. 2020.

"Send Your Name to Mars" campaign of Mars 2020
"Send Your Name" placard attached to Perseverance.
A sample of a souvenir boarding pass for those who registered their names to be flown aboard the Perseverance rover as part of the "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign.

Tribute to healthcare workers plate

Perseverance launched during the COVID-19 pandemic which began to affect the mission planning in March 2020. To show appreciation for healthcare workers who helped during the pandemic, an 8 cm × 13 cm (3.1 in × 5.1 in) plate with a staff-and serpent symbol was placed on the rover. The project manager, Matt Wallace, said he hoped that future generations going to Mars would be able to appreciate healthcare workers during 2020.

Geocaching in Space Trackable

Part of Perseverance's cargo is a Geocaching trackable item viewable with the SHERLOC's WATSON camera.

In 2016, NASA SHERLOC co-investigator Dr. Marc Fries — with help from his son Wyatt — was inspired by Geocaching's 2008 placement of a cache on the International Space Station to set out and try something similar with the rover mission. After floating the idea around mission management, it eventually reached NASA scientist Francis McCubbin, who would join the SHERLOC instrument team as a collaborator to move the project forward. The Geocaching inclusion was scaled-down to a trackable item that players could search for from NASA camera views and then log on the site.

In a manner similar to the "Send Your Name to Mars" campaign, the Geocaching trackable code was carefully printed on a one-inch, polycarbonate glass disk that serves as part of the rover's calibration target. It will serve as an optical target for the WATSON imager and a spectroscopic standard for the SHERLOC instrument. The disk is made of a prototype astronaut helmet visor material that will be tested for its potential use in manned missions to Mars.

The disk with the trackable print was approved by the mission leads at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA Public Affairs, and NASA HQ, in addition to Groundspeak Geocaching HQ.

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