Tomorrow morning, NASA is expected to launch its Mars 2020 mission, which will take the Perseverance rover to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient life, collect terrain samples for potential return to Earth and overall provide a better look at the Martian surface.
|A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover onboard is seen on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky|
Amongst dozens of other pieces of equipment, the Perseverance rover features a record-breaking 19 cameras that NASA says ‘will deliver images of the [Martian] landscape in breathtaking detail.’ There are four additional cameras onboard other parts of the spacecraft that will be used for entry, descent and landing. These additional cameras will ‘potentially [allow] engineers to put together a high-definition view of the landing process after the rover safely touches down on Mars, according to NASA’s fact sheet.
|An overview of the tools on board the Perseverance rover.|
NASA breaks down how each of the cameras aboard the Perseverance rover will be used:
19 cameras total on the rover: 9 for engineering (color); 3 for entry, descent and landing (1 black-and-white dedicated to Terrain-Relative Navigation and 2 color for public engagement and engineering reconstruction of entry, descent and landing); 2 for Mastcam-Z (color with zoom); 1 for SuperCam (color); 2 for SHERLOC (color); 1 for PIXL (black-and-white with some color capabilities); and 1 for MEDA (black-and-white)
3 cameras on the back shell: all color, all looking up to capture parachute inflation
1 camera on the descent stage: color, looking down to view the rover from above
Hitching a ride with the Perseverance rover is Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter, which NASA hopes will ‘be the first flyer on another world.’ The 1.8kg (4lb) helicopter is this mission’s technology demonstration, which is separate experiment designed to test interplanetary technology.
The UAV features two 1.2m (4ft) carbon-fiber blades that will spin at roughly 2,400rpm on counter-rotating motors — about eight times faster than the blades spin on a standard helicopter here on Earth. While Ingenuity is a separate experiment from the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission, the helicopter will have two cameras onboard: one color camera with ‘an oblique view for terrain images’ and one black-and-white camera for navigation.
As it has with previous Mars missions, NASA plans to make both raw and processed images captured during the mission available for the public to download on the mission’s website.
|A ‘Quick Facts’ overview of the Mars 2020 mission.|
The Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter are set to land on Mars on February 18, 2021, after which its primary mission will last ‘at least’ one Mars year (approximately 687 Earth days). You can find out more about the Mars 2020 mission on the NASA website and watch the launch live tomorrow if all goes to plan.