Has NASA ever conducted space missions

NASA rover "Perseverance" landed on Mars

The US probe with the Mars rover "Perseverance" on board is the last of three spaceships that reached Mars orbit in the last ten days of February, but it is technologically at the forefront. It is the largest Mars rover the US has ever built and it has the first Mars helicopter ever with it.

The "show," as NASA puts it, began late Thursday morning Pacific Time in California, where the tension in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena continued to rise. It was around noon on the US east coast and already evening in Central Europe. It then took another two hours before the successful landing could be reported. At 20:57 UTC the newest US rover "Perseverance" touched down on the surface of Mars.

To land on Mars, the rover began its descent at a speed of over 20,000 kilometers per hour. A parachute and brake engines slowed the rover to about 3 km / h before a large celestial crane - comparable to a hovering, jet-powered drone - lowered the rover on three wire ropes to the surface of the planet. Then he touched down on his six wheels. A little later, the first images of the surface of Mars reached the NASA control center in Pasadena, California.

The first photo of the surface of Mars taken by the Mars rover "Perseverance"

Popular landing site

The landing site of "Perseverance" is the Jezero crater, directly north of the Martian equator, in a region called Isidis Planitia.

It's a region that has been well traveled by American landing equipment, including the Curiosity rover, which is still active. But Curiosity is located about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) away in Gale Crater.

In relative terms, Utopia Planitia is not too far away either. China plans to land its first Mars rover there in May.

Three missions

Three Mars missions started in July 2020. In addition to NASA's Mars 2020 mission, there is also the Emirates Mars Mission and China's Tianwen-1.

The UAE and China missions are about spacecraft orbiting the red planet. Tianwen-1 will attempt to drop a rover on Mars later this year. The US has by far the most experience as a Mars explorer.

Perseverance is said to be looking for water in the Martian soil

Find water for later missions

"Perseverance" is said to look for water and other signs of life beneath the surface of the planet, among other things. He will also collect rock and soil samples and deposit them in canisters, which - it is planned - will be collected by joint American and European missions over the next 10 years and brought back to Earth.

Then there's the Ingenuity helicopter strapped to the rover's belly. The helicopter is an experimental device with which NASA wants to learn to take off and fly in the Martian atmosphere. This is significant because the atmosphere there is much thinner than it is on Earth. This can affect the flight - the power and lift required, as well as the speed at which the rotors turn.

Whether it works or not is almost irrelevant at this stage, because no matter what happens: it will be the first time that a space nation tests the flight on another planet.

In addition, these test flights may pave the way for future missions with astronauts flying to and from Mars, even if that may not be the case for 30 years.

Joint ventures

The Emirates Mars Mission consists of a satellite called Hope. It was the first of these three missions to successfully arrive on Mars when it entered the planet's orbit on February 9, 2021.

Hope will conduct tests at various altitudes for two years and is expected to provide the global scientific community with the first complete picture of the Martian atmosphere.

The project is also related to the UAE's drive to move from an oil and gas-dependent economy to a knowledge-based economy. In order to achieve this, a number of international collaborations were concluded with universities, among others in the USA.

On February 10, 2021, the orbiter Tianwen-1 entered its orbit around Mars. The Chinese orbiter will also explore the Martian atmosphere. And in three months, China's first rover is also expected to land on the planet.

Much like NASA's Perseverance rover, China will look for signs of life on Mars, including water beneath the planet's surface.

Competition for the stars

A number of countries and organizations have expressed an interest in working with China on its space exploration missions.

However, some authors have suggested that - if fears of a new space race were justified - China would be a major competitor - possibly with the rest of the world on the other side.

One reason for this particular suspicion is that China appears to want to set up its own bases in space while the US and Europe are collaborating on a new "Artemis" lunar program that includes ground and orbital bases.

But that's a very limited view. There are many other countries in space, including India and Israel. And recently even Turkey announced a new space program.

Most experts see any success in space as a success for all of humanity, no matter how the knowledge and the yield are shared.

NASA points out that only about 40 percent of the missions ever sent to Mars - regardless of the space agency - were successful. So any attempt is welcome if it is made for the right reasons and the money is not better invested elsewhere.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Successful landing

    NASA's Perseverance Rover with the Mars helicopter Ingenuity landed safely on Mars. After two hours of intense tension, cheers broke out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. At 20:57 UTC on February 18, 2021, the message came that the rover was safely on the surface of Mars.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Farewell to the earth

    In early July 2020, NASA engineers loaded the Perseverence (Persistence) Mars Rover into this Atlas V rocket. On Thursday, July 30th, 2020, the trip started from Cape Canaveral.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Presentation in the clean room

    This is how it looked when Perseverance was presented to the public in 2019. He will support the most modern rover Curiosity in its work. At just over a ton, the new Rover is 100 kg heavier than its predecessor. And ten centimeters longer at three meters.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    More powerful than all predecessors

    Perseverance can charge more research equipment and sensors than Curiosity, and its gripper arm with cameras and tools is also more powerful. The new rover can collect samples. It is equipped with 23 cameras and many other instruments. Among other things, he should find out whether oxygen can be extracted from the Martian rocks. But what is there in front of the rover on the Martian floor?

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    A small flying drone

    Correct! A small helicopter is on board. There has never been anything like it on a planetary mission. The use of an aerial drone is new territory for the developers. There is hardly any experience with flight behavior under other atmospheric conditions and gravity that is around a third less than on earth.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Curiosity: Working for science since 2012

    Curiosity is the predecessor of Perseverance and the largest Mars rover to date. He landed on the Red Planet on August 6, 2012, has covered more than 22.31 kilometers since then and is still extremely fit. It gets its energy from a radioactive isotope battery. So he practically never runs out of strength. Curiosity is a complete science laboratory on wheels.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Impressive interior

    Curiosity has special spectrometers that can analyze samples remotely with the help of lasers. In addition to temperature, an integrated meteorological station also measures atmospheric pressure, humidity, radiation and wind speed. In addition, the robot has an analysis unit for determining organic compounds - always on the lookout for extraterrestrial life.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Don't just scratch the surface

    The rover has already proven that life on Mars is theoretically possible. But he hasn't found life yet. The Curiosity gripper arm has a proper drill. Here he took a sample in 2013 in the yellow knife bay of the Gale crater.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Off to the laboratory!

    The sophisticated technology of Curiosity makes it possible for the first time to fill the samples obtained into a wide variety of analysis devices. First, the soil sample passes through a filter system. Then the particles are sorted into different grain sizes by vibration and distributed to numerous analysis devices.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Tiny predecessor

    The predecessors were significantly smaller: On July 4, 1997, the NASA Mars rover Sojourner covered its first centimeters on the red planet. It was the first time that a mobile robot set out on its own. It was equipped with an X-ray spectrometer for chemical analysis of the soil and with optical cameras.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Size comparison of the Rover generations

    In this photo, NASA employees are standing next to models of three generations of Mars rovers. The little one at the very front is Sojourner - at 10.6 kg, not much bigger than a toy car and a maximum speed of one cm / s. At 185 kg, Opportunity weighs more than an electric wheelchair. At 900 kg, Curiosity weighs as much as a small car. The two large ones reach about four to five cm / s.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Almost four months in use

    Sojourner was active until September 27, 1997. He has covered a good 100 meters in his life. Here is one of the last photos the Pathfinder lander took of its companion - nine days before reception broke off. The battery must have been unable to cope with the low night temperatures.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Paving the way for tomorrow's technology

    Without the experience with Sojourner, the following three Mars rover missions would have been unthinkable. In 2004 NASA landed two identical robots: Spirit and Opportunity. Spirit held out for six years and covered 7.7 kilometers. The robot conquered mountains, took soil samples, and survived winter and sandstorms. On February 13, 2019, I also lost contact with Opportunity.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Many technical refinements

    Opportunity had already managed the marathon distance of 42 kilometers in 2015 and thus still had a clear lead over Curiosity. The robot has three different spectrometers and 3D cameras. Most recently he was in the Perseverance Valley - the "Valley of Perseverance". A sandstorm sealed the end of the mission.

  • New Rover Generation: This is the NASA Rover Perseverance

    Landscapes as inspiration

    This image was captured by Curiosity's mast camera. The rover should remain in use as long as possible - another five years and significantly longer. Somehow the surface of Mars doesn't look all that unusual - it reminds us of deserts on our planet. Is that supposed to be a reason for wanderlust - or should we leave Mars to the robots?

    Author: Fabian Schmidt