Friday, December 3

Perseverance has already landed on Mars. And now that?


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The Perseverance has spent the first day in your new home: Mars. And, for now, it seems that he is adjusting well in his new ‘neighborhood’, the cráter Lake. The NASA has confirmed that the first data sent from the most advanced rover of the US space agency on the red planet indicates that everything is going according to plan. “The systems are in good condition and everything seems to be going well, “he said at an online press conference Pauline Hwang, Director of Strategic Mission for Mission Surface Operations Mars 2020. So well that we have already seen the historical image of the rover hanging by the nylon ropes moments before landing, a photograph that no mission had achieved to date. Now, the next question arises logically: what comes next?

Roughly the size of a car and weighing in at a ton, the robotic geologist and astrobiologist now faces several weeks of testing before starting to do science on it. cráter Lake, where it will look for at least two years the traces of past life. And he will do so by investigating the rocks and sediments of the area, an ancient delta that ended up forming a lake of 45 kilometers in diameter 3.5 billion years ago behind the impact of a large meteorite. Afterwards, it dried, leaving us the current desolate panorama that we could see in the first photo that Perseverance sent a few minutes after landing and those that arrived the next day, already colored. Still, scientists have high hopes that life in the past rooted there, leaving its trail in the present in the form of biofirmas that can now be detected.

Aiming and more photos

But before all that, the rover has to get ready. And the first thing is charge the batteries, which will happen in the next three or four Martian days (which last forty minutes longer than the terrestrial ones), while they also arrive and are processed new images from Mars – which we can foreseeably see on Monday – and even the landing moment audio. Once this task is completed, the rover is scheduled to take its first color panoramas with the MastCam-Z camera starting Monday and carry out preliminary tests with the other instruments on board. On day four another critical moment will arrive: loading new software sent from Earth that will allow the rover to operate in its new environment.

“Once this task begins, it will take us four days to switch to the new software,” he explained. Jennifer Trosper, deputy director of the Mars 2020 mission. When we make sure that everything is in order, we will begin the next round of checks where we will deploy the robotic arm and move the rover for the first time about five meters back and forth. ” This will be the Perseverance’s first ‘trip’ before his first big foray: stand in a good open area so that Ingenuity, the helicopter that is attached to his ‘belly’, can make the first flight in another world. But that won’t happen until July, according to the NASA calendar.

Starting to do science

When Ingenuity completes its test flights, Perseverance will focus on its true goal: look for evidence of ancient microbial life. “With the images we can already observe things: comparing them with those taken by the orbiters, it is possible to check if they correspond with the theories we have,” he explained. Stacie Stack Morgan, a geologist at NASA’s JPL. According to Stack Morgan, the rover’s first assignment will be to find out if these rocks are from volcanic or sedimentary origin and really understand where the Jezero crater was millions of years ago.

He will also investigate the enigmas that the nicknamed as’Canyon de Chelly‘. NASA has used the same name (provisionally) for the United States national monument in Arizona due to the similarity of characteristics between the two places: a surface that was probably fractured by the action of water (or lava) millions of years ago. “It is a very interesting place to approach, since we have been able to observe from the orbiters that its composition surely differs from the rest of the crater.”

Bringing rocks from Mars

And his feat will not end there: the idea is for Perseverance to fill up to 43 tubes with Martian rocks that will be collected in a future joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), the campaign Mars Sample Return, which is scheduled for launch in 2026. It will be then that the samples can be analyzed in powerful terrestrial laboratories, revealing many more secrets than Perseverance can observe ‘in situ’. It will also test new systems for generating water and oxygen and will not stop sending images thanks to its high-resolution cameras.

Expectations are very high. In Hwang’s words: “The work that is being carried out is impressive. We cannot imagine what we will see in the future. A very interesting science arrives ».

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