‘Next stop, Jezero Crater’: NASA’s Perseverance rover hits the halfway mark of its 314 million mile journey to Mars where it will search for signs of life
- NASA launched the Perseverance rover to Mars on July 30 at 7:50am ET
- The craft carrying the rover has hit the halfway mark from Earth to Mars
- The path follows a curve trajectory due to the sun’s influence
- Perseverance will study the Jezero Crater with hopes of finding signs of life
NASA announced its Perseverance rover is halfway through its journey to Mars.
The vehicle launched atop a United Launch Alliances Atlas V rocket at 7:50am ET on July 30 and has just logged 146.3 million miles.
This is exactly the same difference the spacecraft has to travel before it reaches the Red Planet’s atmosphere, which NASA says will hit like an 11,900 mph freight t rain of February 18, 2021.
Once Perseverance lands on Mars, it will trek to the base of an 820-foot-deep crater called Jezero, a former lake which was home to water 3.5 billion years ago.
It will then drill into dusty surface and collect geological specimens that will be cached across the planet and retrieved by a follow up mission around 2031.
Julie Kangas, a navigator working on the Perseverance rover mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said: ‘While I don’t think there will be cake, especially since most of us are working from home, it’s still a pretty neat milestone.’
‘Next stop, Jezero Crater.’
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NASA announced its Perseverance rover is halfway through its journey to Mars. The vehicle launched atop a United Launch Alliances Atlas V rocket at 7:50am ET on July 30 and has just logged 146.3 million miles
Perseverance’s path to Mars follows a curved trajectory, as the trip from Earth to the planet is not an arrow-straight path that is due to the sun’s gravitational influence.
‘Although we’re halfway into the distance we need to travel to Mars, the rover is not halfway between the two worlds,’ Kangas explained. ‘In straight-line distance, Earth is 26.6 million miles behind Perseverance and Mars is 17.9 million miles in front.’
The six-wheeled vehicle, which is the same size as a large car, is also accompanied by an autonomous four pound helicopter called Ingenuity which will study Mars’s atmosphere.
The rover stands seven feet tall, is nine feet wide, weighs 2,260 pounds and relies on Curiosity’s blueprint but has been tailored to be adept at collecting geological samples.
Perseverance’s path to Mars follows a curved trajectory, as the trip from Earth to the planet is not an arrow-straight path that is due to the sun’s gravitational influence
It is powered by a nuclear battery which consists of 10.6 pounds of plutonium in a container roughly the size of a bucket.
The plutonium provides 2,000 watts of thermal power and will last for around 14 years.
Perseverance will hunt for ‘biosignatures’ of past microbial life and the rock samples will be picked up by another mission in 2026.
The rover will drill into the dusty surface and gather material into titanium, germ free tubes that will be placed in the vehicle’s belly – there are a total of 43 tubes to fill.
The six-wheeled vehicle, which is the same size as a large car, is also accompanied by an autonomous four pound helicopter called Ingenuity which will study Mars’s atmosphere
NASA aims to gather at least 20 samples with a variety of material that can be brought back to Earth for further analysis.
NASA has teamed up with the European Space Agency for the follow up mission that would send two or more spacecraft in 2026.
‘In 2026, we’re going to launch a mission from Earth to Mars to go pick up those samples and bring them back to Earth,’ Bridenstine said.
‘For the first time in history, we’re doing a Mars sample return mission.’
To do this, a secondary goal of Perseverance is to investigate if materials found on Mars can be utilized to facilitate return missions.