Perseverance: The next Mars science adventure.
In July NASA will launch the 2020 Mars mission. The launch window is set from the 30th of July to August 15, in which period the Earth and Mars will have the shortest distance between them. Great things are expected from this mission and I will certainly follow this mission close.
The Mars 2020 mission which will leave Earth on top of a two-stage Atlas V-541 launch vehicle, provided by United Launch Alliance(ULA). The Atlas rocket is able to generate 1,688.4 kN (379,600 lbf) of thrust and will bring the mission to Mars in about 7 months.
The Perseverance science lab has a remarkable generator, the Multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator or “MMRTG” for short which will keep the vehicle operational throughout its stay on Mars’s surface. The propellant used is Plutonium (IV) oxide (O2Pu) and the rover is carrying almost 5kg on board which will produce heat, converted into electricity. The lifespan of the generator is expected to be 14 years. Opposite NASA’s previous rovers the Curiosity, Opportunity and Spirit, powered by solar panels, the Perseverance will be able to operate at all times and during all seasons on Mars. The rover weighs in at over a ton (1025 kg). You will be able to view this picture in resolution 7170 x 4410 by clicking the image.
The drone named Ingenuity that Perseverance is carrying to Mars is powered by a 350 watt/0,47 hp motor and weighs 1,8 kg. NASA will probably be able to gain some experience that they can use for the Dragonfly Mission to Titan in 2026. Mars’s atmosphere is very sparse and mostly made up of carbon dioxide, argon and nitrogen and is in no way comparable or compatible to the atmosphere on Earth.
The Graph shows the distance between Earth and Mars throughout the years and seasons. The distance that the Mars 2020 mission have to travel is 62 million kilometers :-). The optimal launch window happens every 16 years and next time this will ocour are in 2034 were the distance will be 58 million kilometers.