With the addition of a powerful piece of hardware, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover continues to progress toward its much-anticipated launch in less than two months.
The spacecraft’s booster arrived at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Skid Strip on Monday, May 18. It was then offloaded and taken to United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center.
Perseverance will reach the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. After the rover enters the thin Martian atmosphere, the descent stage — utilizing a tether of nylon cords — will lower Perseverance to the surface of Jezero Crater.
Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life. Ingenuity, the twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter attached to Perseverance, will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.
The latest activities at the Florida spaceport included attaching the aeroshell backshell on April 29 and attaching the rover to its rocket-powered descent stage on April 23 inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. The rover and descent stage were the first spacecraft components to come together for launch — and they will be the last to separate when the spacecraft reaches Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.
The backshell carries the parachute and several components that will be used during later stages of entry, descent and landing. The aeroshell will encapsulate and protect Perseverance and its descent stage during their deep space journey to Mars and during descent through the Martian atmosphere, which generates intense heat.
April saw other key rover milestones reached at Kennedy. On April 14, the
descent stage — fully loaded with 884 pounds of fuel (a hydrazine monopropellant) — was rotated and spun on two separate measuring fixtures to pinpoint its center of gravity. This will help ensure the descent stage remains stable while guiding Perseverance to a safe landing.
On April 6, NASA’s Mars Helicopter, recently named Ingenuity, was attached to the belly of the rover. Weighing less than four pounds, the twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will be released to perform the first in a series of flight tests that will take place during 30 Martian days (a day on Mars is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth). Ingenuity will become the first aircraft to fly on another world.
Thanks to the enduring efforts of NASA and United Launch Alliance (ULA) engineers, Perseverance remains on track for its targeted launch period, which opens in just six weeks. The rover will liftoff aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.
After the rover enters the thin Martian atmosphere, the descent stage will complete the slowing of Perseverance to less than two miles per hour. At about 65 feet over the Martian surface, the descent stage — utilizing a tether of nylon cords — will lower Perseverance to the surface of Jezero Crater. The rover will then sever the cords and the descent stage will fly away.
About the size of a car with dimensions similar to the Curiosity rover, Perseverance will carry seven different scientific instruments. Developed under NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life. It will characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
NASA’s Mars Helicopter will make history in about 10 months when it becomes the first aircraft to fly on another world.
Now it has its ride to the Red Planet.
On April 6, 2020, the helicopter was attached to the belly of the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover. The installation took place inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the rover has remained since its Feb. 9, 2020, arrival from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter weighs less than 4 pounds; the total length of its rotors is about 4 feet, tip to tip. Its main purpose is a technology demonstration. After Perseverance safely lands on Mars, the helicopter will be released to perform the first in a series of flight tests that will take place during 30 Martian days (a day on Mars is about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth).
For history’s first flight experimental flight test in the thin Martian atmosphere (less than 1% the density of Earth’s), the helicopter is tasked with hovering in the air a few feet off the ground for 20 to 30 seconds before landing. It is designed to fly on its own, without human control, using minimal commands from Earth sent in advance.
With the helicopter safely tucked away and covered by a shield to protect it during descent and landing, Perseverance will touch down on the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. Liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 rocket is targeted between July 17 and Aug. 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The assembly, test and launch operations team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, making significant strides in preparing the agency’s Mars Perseverance rover for its planned July 2020 launch. Final assembly and testing of the rover continue at Kennedy, including the recent installation of its wheels and parachute.
The rover received its six flight wheels on March 30. The wheels are re-engineered versions of the ones NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has been using on the Red Planet.
When the Mars Perseverance rover begins its seven-month journey to the Red Planet in mid-July, it will be carrying the names of more than 10 million people throughout the world.
Those names were etched onto three microchips, which were placed aboard Perseverance. On March 16, 2020, inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the “Names to Mars” logo was installed on the rover.
Those who took advantage of the special public promotion also had the opportunity to receive a souvenir boarding pass and obtain “frequent flyer points” as part of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. In total, 10,932,295 people submitted their names. Turkey (2,528,844), India (1,778,277) and the United States (1,733,559) all had more than 1 million submissions.
Perseverance will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
Earlier this month at Kennedy, activities to measure mass properties of the Cruise Stage vehicle were performed on the spin table inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility. Successful testing also was performed on NASA’s Mars Helicopter, which will be attached to Perseverance. The helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet.