General, Research, Technology

What the Perseverance rover will do and how it will get oxygen on Mars

After years of waiting and development, NASA has finally launched the rover Perseverance ("Perseverance") and the helicopter Ingenuity ("Ingenuity"). This ambitious rover is the latest US advancement in space exploration robots. The launch took place on July 30, 2020 using an Atlas V launch vehicle from the Cape Canaveral launch site. Not only is Perseverance - the largest rover in the world, so he still faces a variety of missions, from collecting soil, which is usually done by rovers, to producing oxygen on Mars!

Humanity is one step closer to establishing a colony on Mars

Content

  • 1 Launch of the rover 2020
  • 2 What will the Perseverance rover do
  • 3 How soil is mined on Mars
  • 4 Why did NASA send a helicopter to Mars?
  • 5 Is it possible to get oxygen on Mars?

Mars rover launch 2020

Why was the launch now? NASA was supposed to send this mission no later than August 15, because after that Mars and Earth will no longer be in the ideal location for space travel. The entire project would have to be postponed as much as two years, until the next approach of the two planets with each other. For this reason, not so long ago, the UAE sent their first orbiter to Mars.

Rover with helicopter expected to land in Mars Jezero crater 18 February 2021... It is there, according to scientists, containsvarious types of clay and carbonates, and there used to be rivers and lakes. That is, the rover will immediately start exploring one of the most interesting places on Mars, where life could be.

Crater Ezero can be seen in this picture. The landing site of the Perseverance rover (circled) is located near the ancient river delta, which can be seen in the upper left corner of the crater.

What will the Perseverance rover do

We have four goals, - said earlier this year Ken Williford, NASA Deputy Chief of Mission. "Mars 2020"... - The first three are really our main scientific goals. The fourth is preparation for human exploration.

Before rover "Persistence" there are the following tasks: searching for places that could potentially be inhabited in the past, searching for signs of ancient microbes in rocks known to be able to live for millions of years, and collecting and storing promising rock samples for a future return mission.

The rover has been specially designed to achievethese goals. It has a unique and sophisticated toolbox, including a laser capable of blasting rocks, microphones and cameras, a powerful drilling rig, a mobile weather station and the first radar ever sent to the surface of Mars. Many of these high-tech instruments are simply upgraded versions of the ones Curiosity brought to the Red Planet in 2012. NASA is using what they call a "legacy approach": borrowing what worked on Curiosity.

Perseverance is 90% Curiosity parts, Jim Bell said earlier this year. Principal Systems Engineer for Perseverance... “Thanks to this, we managed to quickly get approval for the mission. We have been able to save a huge amount of money by using these spare parts.

But that doesn't mean Perseverance was too cheap for the United States. This is, for a minute, a project worth about $ 2 billion, and NASA plans to spend a total of about $ 2.7 billion for the entire mission.

How soil is mined on Mars

Despite borrowing much of its technology from Curiosity, Perseverance includes several new gadgets.

The new rover was created in order not only to collect, but also store stone samples and soil for their future shipment to Earth. Using its rotary hammer drill, the rover will bite into the surface of Mars. Next, a special bucket will take soil. Perseverance will then take a photograph of the sample and place it in its internal chamber, hermetically seal the soil in a titanium tube, and store it in its "body" until the sample needs to be sent to Earth.

Diagram of the device of the Perseverance rover.

How will the samples get to the scientists? According to NASA's plans, as part of a new mission (not yet announced) to Mars will be sent another little roverto collect all samples and load them intorocket. With its help, the small rover will first enter the orbit of Mars, and then begin its return to Earth. Once the Martian samples reach our planet, researchers will study them with the most powerful laboratory instruments available. True, it will happen not earlier than 2031.

Why, one wonders, not collect soil andsend it immediately on the second rover? The fact is that the process of collecting samples takes years: rovers move very slowly and cannot quickly collect the soil they need. In addition, the rover must explore as much of the area of ​​Mars as possible before shutting down. The life cycle of Perseverance is 687 Earth days.

An example of how soil samples will leave the Red Planet.

Why did NASA send a helicopter to Mars?

In addition to the rover, a helicopter is also involved in the mission. Ingenuity ("Ingenuity"). With a length of just over 0.6 meters and a weight of less than 1.8 kg, Ingenuity, to be honest, can do little there. The helicopter can take off, hover several tens of meters above the surface and land on a flat surface.

Don't underestimate this helicopter

Is it possible to get oxygen on Mars?

Finally, the most ambitious experiment will be to try extract oxygen from the air of Mars... This will use a special device Moxie, created to convert the atmospheric carbon dioxide of the Red Planet into breathable oxygen.

Moxie the structure is rather complicated - the device has to separate oxygen atoms from existing carbon dioxide molecules, as a result of which carbon monoxide, oxygen and other by-products are formed.

The atmosphere of Mars is composed of approximately 95%carbon dioxide, so there is enough of it to convert it into oxygen. Unfortunately, Moxie only produces a small amount of oxygen - about six grams per hour - and this is just enough to save lifesmall dog. But if the experiment is successful, in the future it will be possible to send more advanced devices to Mars, which will make it possible to produce oxygen there in the volumes necessary for a person.

Yellow indicates Moxie - oxygen making device

People need about 20 grams of oxygen per hour, to survive. Thus, the technology must be significantly improved before it can provide enough oxygen for astronauts to breathe, let alone use it to make rocket fuel on Mars.

With missions like Perseverance, the idea of ​​human colonies on Mars doesn't seem as crazy as it used to be.

However, Moxie is more than just a test.for the production of oxygen. This is a test of whether we can harness the power of Earth's electrochemistry on another planet. If astronauts ultimately gain access to water on Mars, providing themselves with a reliable source of hydrogen, scientists may be able to modify Moxie's core technology to create more complex products.

Once you have water and electrochemistry, the mission authors say, you can start making anything from paraffin to beer.

And when you read on our website or ourSee the Yandex.Zen channel that Perseverance has reached the surface of Mars, keep in mind that this rover is not just looking for ancient alien life. He will also allow people to cook their own on the Red Planet. the first martian beer.