Third mission to Mars in a month
The US space agency NASA’s latest Mars rover Perseverance became the third mission to the red planet from earth in a month. China launched its first Mars rover last week, which should arrive by May 2021. Even the UAE sent a mission this month.
The Perseverance is an astrobiology mission to look for signs of ancient microbial life — and to fly a helicopter-drone on another world for the first time.
If all goes to plan, Perseverance will reach the Red Planet on February 18, 2021, becoming the fifth rover to complete the voyage since 1997.
By next year, Mars could therefore have three active rovers, including NASA’s Curiosity, which has traversed 23 kilometers of the Red Planet since it landed in 2012.
Perseverance, which was developed at the storied Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is an improved version of Curiosity.
It is faster, with a tougher set of six wheels, has more computing power, and can autonomously navigate 200 meters per day.
About the size of a small SUV, it weighs a metric ton, has 19 cameras, and two microphones — which scientists hope will be the first to record sound on Mars.
It has a two-meter-long robotic arm, and is powered by a small nuclear generator.