In case you hadn't noticed, we really love space here at Stardock.
Our fascination for space and science-fiction is obviously reflected in tons of our games, from Galactic Civilizations III to Offworld Trading Company and Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion. Because of our collective interest in space as a whole and in the Sci-Fi genre, we get excited about rocket launches and missions to other planets.
Last March, the Mars Rover got its name ahead of its July 2020 mission launch. We watched with equal excitement as the Perseverance Mars Rover touched down on the surface of Mars at the Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. Perseverance's primary job is to "seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth."
Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the mission comes in the form of a tech demonstration that hitched a ride on the Mars rover. The Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, is a brand new piece of technology that will have its inaugural flight on Mars in order to test powered flight on another world for the very first time. Once the team finds a suitable location for a helipad, they will release Ingenuity and run several test flights over a 30-Martian day period starting sometime in the spring.
For the helicopter's first flight, it will only take off a few feet from the ground and hover in the air for 20-30 seconds before landing. This alone would be considered a major milestone, as it would be the very first ever powered flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars. We will definitely be watching this first flight - and all of its subsequent flights of incrementally farther distances and great altitudes - with extreme interest!
"5 Things to Know" about Ingenuity, pulled from NASA's website.
Let's get back to Perseverance and some of its primary goals during this mission. According to NASA, the rover's key objectives are:
- Explore a geologically diverse landing site
- Assess ancient habitability
- Seek signs of ancient life, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
- Gather rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by a future NASA mission
- Demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration
The timeline for the mission now that the rover has landed is to spend at least one Mars year (the equivalent of two Earth years) exploring the landing site region. The Perseverance is geared up with seven instruments designed to conduct unprecedented science and test new technology. They are:
- Mastcam-Z - an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom.
- SuperCam - an instrument that provides imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy at a distance.
- Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) - an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and high-resolution imager.
- Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) - a spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses a UV laser to map mineralogy and organic compounds.
- Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) - a technology demonstration that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.
- Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) - a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and dust size and shape.
- Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) - a ground penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.
You can learn more specifics about the above tools here! There are a ton of awesome resources and pictures over on NASA's website that detail the mission and everything that goes into it, from the people to the tech.
What do you think Perseverance will find during its mission? Share your thoughts with me!