|Goals||NASA's Perseverance rover is seeking signs of ancient life by studying Martian terrain that is now inhospitable but once held flowing rivers and lakes. The mission includes the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, the first rotary aircraft test on a planet beyond Earth.|
|Launch Date||July 30, 2020|
|Landing Date||Feb. 18, 2021|
|Scientific Instruments||1. Mastcam-Z
2. Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)
3. Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)
4. Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)
5. Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX)
6. Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC)
- First test of powered flight on another planet (Ingenuity helicopter)
- First audio recording from another planet.
July 30, 2020: Launch
Feb. 18, 2021: Landing on Mars
March 4, 2021: First drive on Mars
Perseverance – the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world – touched down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, after a 203-day journey traversing 293 million miles (472 million kilometers). Confirmation of the successful touchdown was announced in mission control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California at 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST).
Packed with groundbreaking technology, the Mars 2020 mission launched July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Perseverance rover mission marks an ambitious first step in the effort to collect Mars samples and return them to Earth.
“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk.
Perseverance performed its first drive on Mars on March 4, 2021, covering 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) across the Martian landscape. The drive served as a mobility test – marking one of many milestones as team members check out and calibrate every system, subsystem, and instrument on Perseverance. Once the rover begins pursuing its science goals, regular commutes extending 656 feet (200 meters) or more are expected.
“When it comes to wheeled vehicles on other planets, there are few first-time events that measure up in significance to that of the first drive,” said Anais Zarifian, Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mobility testbed engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
The drive, which lasted about 33 minutes, propelled the rover forward 13 feet (4 meters), where it then turned in place 150 degrees to the left and backed up 8 feet (2.5 meters) into its new temporary parking space.
NASA has named Perseverance's landing site “Octavia E. Butler Landing,” after the science fiction author Octavia E. Butler.
Perseverance's astrobiology mission is to seek out signs of past microscopic life on Mars, explore the diverse geology of its landing site, Jezero Crater, and demonstrate key technologies that will help us prepare for future robotic and human exploration.
"Jezero Crater is the perfect place to search for signs of ancient life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "Perseverance is going to make discoveries that cause us to rethink our questions about what Mars was like and how we understand it today. As our instruments investigate rocks along an ancient lake bottom and select samples to return to Earth, we may very well be reaching back in time to get the information scientists need to say that life has existed elsewhere in the universe."
The Martian rock and dust Perseverance’s Sample Caching System collects could answer fundamental questions about the potential for life to exist beyond Earth. Two future missions currently under consideration by NASA, in collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency), will work together to get the samples to an orbiter for return to Earth. When they arrive on Earth, the Mars samples will undergo in-depth analysis by scientists around the world using equipment far too large to send to the Red Planet.
While most of Perseverance's seven science instruments are geared toward learning more about the planet's geology and astrobiology, the MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) instrument's job is focused on missions yet to come. Designed to demonstrate that converting Martian carbon dioxide into oxygen is possible, it could lead to future versions of MOXIE technology that become staples on Mars missions, providing oxygen for rocket fuel and breathable air.
Also, future-leaning is the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which will remain attached to the belly of Perseverance for the first several days on the surface. A technology demonstrator, Ingenuity's goal is a pure flight test – it carries no science instruments.
Over 30 sols (31 Earth days), the helicopter will attempt up to five powered, controlled flights. The data acquired during these flight tests will help the next generation of Mars helicopters provide an aerial dimension to Mars explorations – potentially scouting for rovers and human crews, transporting small payloads, or investigating difficult-to-reach destinations.
The rover's technologies for entry, descent, and landing also will provide information to advance future human missions to Mars.
"Perseverance is the most capable rover in history because it is standing on the shoulders of our pioneers Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity," said Michael Watkins, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "In the same way, the descendants of Ingenuity and MOXIE will become valuable tools for future explorers to the Red Planet and beyond."