|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 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: Perseverance rover's first drive on Mars
April 19, 2021: First powered flight on another planet (Ingenuity helicopter)
June 1, 2021: Perseverance begins first science campaign
Sept. 1, 2021: Perseverance successfully cores its first Mars rock
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.
On April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT (3:46 a.m. PDT).
“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible,” Jurczyk said. “The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky – at least on Mars – may not be the limit.”
On June 1, Perseverance kicked off the science phase of its mission by leaving the “Octavia E. Butler” landing site.
During the first few weeks of this first science campaign, the mission team will drive to a low-lying scenic overlook from which the rover can survey some of the oldest geologic features in Jezero Crater, and they’ll bring online the final capabilities of the rover’s auto-navigation and sampling systems.
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. The toaster-size, experimental instrument extracted the first oxygen from the Red Planet on April 20, 2021.
MOXIE could pave the way for science fiction to become science fact – isolating and storing oxygen on Mars to help power rockets that could lift astronauts off the planet’s surface. Such devices also might one day provide breathable air for astronauts themselves.
“This is a critical first step at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen on Mars,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “MOXIE has more work to do, but the results from this technology demonstration are full of promise as we move toward our goal of one-day seeing humans on Mars. Oxygen isn’t just the stuff we breathe. Rocket propellant depends on oxygen, and future explorers will depend on producing propellant on Mars to make the trip home.”
Also, future-leaning is Ingenuity. A technology demonstrator, Ingenuity's goal is a pure flight test – it carries no science instruments. 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."