Under the new President Joe Biden NASA successfully landed Perseverance Rover on Red Planet (Mars).

  • This was one of the most crucial aspects of the NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission.
  • The Mars 2020 Mission is designed to better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of ancient life.

Objectives

  • Assess ancient habitability
    • Demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration.
  • Duration of the Mission: The Mars 2020 Mission stay one Mars year (687 Earth days).
  • Mars 2020 Mission Steps
    • Collect: The Perseverance will collect rock and soil samples in cigar-sized tubes. The samples will be collected, the canisters will be sealed, and left on the ground.
    • Fetch: A Mars Fetch Rover (provided by the European Space Agency (ESA)) will land, drive, and collect all samples from the different locations, and return to the lander.
    • Transfer: These samples will be transferred to the Mars Ascent Vehicle which will meet with an Orbiter.
    • Return: Orbiter will carry the samples back to Earth after one year.

Perseverance Rover

Mars 2020 Mission
  • The Perseverance is the most advanced, most expensive and most sophisticated mobile laboratory sent to Red Planet.
    • It is different from previous missions because it is capable of drilling and collecting core samples of the most promising rocks and soils, and setting them aside in a “cache” on the surface of Red Planet.
  • Launch: It was launched on 30th July, 2020
  • Landing: It was landing on 18th February, 2021
  • Landing Site
    • Jezero Crater (an ancient river delta that has rocks and minerals that could only form in water) is the landing site.
  • Power Source
    • A Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator which converts heat from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium (Plutonium Dioxide) into electricity.
  • Instruments: It carries 7 instruments, 2 microphones and 23 cameras in total in order to conduct unprecedented science and test new technology on Red Planet. Few important instruments are:
    • Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment (MOXIE)
      • This will use power to produce oxygen using atmospheric carbon dioxide.
      • If successful, it can be scaled up to provide the two very critical needs of humans: oxygen for breathing, and rocket fuel for the trip back to Planet Earth.
    • Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX)
      • It will provide high resolution mapping and also look for subsurface water on Red Planet.
    • Mars Helicopter or Drone
      • The Mars Helicopter or small drone to test whether the helicopter can fly in the sparse atmosphere on Red Planet. The low density of the Martian atmosphere makes the odds of actually flying a helicopter or an aircraft on Mars very low.
    • Mastcam-Z
      • An advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability will help determine mineralogy.
    • SuperCam
      • SuperCam can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy at a distance.
    • Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)
      • An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and high-resolution imager that will provide capabilities that permit more detailed detection and analysis of chemical elements than ever before.
    • Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC)
      • A spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet laser to map mineralogy and organic compounds.
      • SHERLOC will be the first UV Raman spectrometer to fly to the surface of Red Planet and will provide complementary measurements with other instruments in the payload.
    • Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)
      • Sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and dust size and shape.

Mars or Red Planet

  • Size & Distance
    • The Red Planet is the 4th planet from the Sun and the 2nd-smallest planet in the Solar System.
    • The Red Planet is about half the size of Planet Earth.
  • Similarity to the Planet Earth (Orbit and Rotation)
    • As Red Planet orbits the Sun, it completes one rotation every 24.6 hours, which is very similar to one day on Earth (23.9 hours).
    • Red Planet’ axis of rotation is tilted 25 degrees with respect to the plane of its orbit around the Sun. This is similar with Earth, which has an axial tilt of 23.4 degrees.
    • Like Planet Earth, Planet Mars has distinct seasons, but they last longer than seasons on Earth since Mars takes longer to orbit the Sun (because it’s farther away).
    • Martian days are called sols—short for ‘solar day’.
  • Surface
    • Red Planet has colors such as brown, gold and tan. The reason Mars looks reddish is due to oxidation or rusting of iron in the rocks, and dust of Mars.
    • The Red Planet has the largest volcano in the solar system i.e. Olympus Mons. It’s three times taller than Earth’s Mount Everest with a base the size of the state of New Mexico.
  • Atmosphere
    • Red Planet has a thin atmosphere made up mostly of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen and argon (Ar) gases.
  • Magnetosphere
    • Red Planet has no magnetic field till date, but areas of the Martian crust in the southern hemisphere are highly magnetized, indicating traces of a magnetic field.
  • Moons
    • The Planet has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos, that may be captured asteroids.
  • Previous Mars Missions around the world
    • In 1971, Soviet Union (USSR) became the first country to carry out a Mars landing, Mars 3.
    • The second country is USA to reach Mars’s surface. Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in the year 2019.
    • European Space Agency (ESA) has been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit through the Mars Express Mission.
  • India’s Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan
    • Mars Orbiter Mission was launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh by ISRO by November 2013.
    • This Mission was launched on board a PSLV C-25 rocket with aim of studying Martian surface and mineral composition as well as scan its atmosphere for methane (an indicator of life on Mars).
  • Reasons for Frequent Missions to Mars: There are two primary reasons:
    • Similar to Planet Earth
      • First, Mars is a planet where life may have evolved in the past. Conditions on early Mars roughly around 4 billion (400) years ago were very similar to that of Earth.
      • Planet Mars had a thick atmosphere, which enabled the stability of water on the surface of Mars.
      • If indeed conditions on Mars were similar to those on Earth, there is a real possibility that microscopic life evolved on Mars.
    • Most Suitable among the Other Planets
      • Red Planet is the only planet that humans can visit or inhabit in the long term. Venus and Mercury have extreme temperatures – the average temperature is greater than 400°C. All planets in the outer solar system starting with Jupiter are made of gas – not silicates or rocks – and are very cold.
      • Red Planet is comparatively hospitable in terms of temperature, with an approximate range between 20°C at the Equator to minus 125°C at the poles.