Over the last two decades, missions flown by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program have shown us that Mars was once very different from the red planet it is today. Evidence discovered by landed and orbital missions point water existing on mars years ago. These environments lasted long enough to potentially support the development of microbial life.
The Mars 2020/Perseverance rover is designed to better understand the geology of Mars and seek signs of life. The mission will collect and store a set of rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth in the future. It will also test new technology to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars.
1. Explore and understand the geology of Mars
2. Seek signs of life, particularly in special rocks known to preserve signs of life over time
3. Gather rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth by a future mission
4. Demonstrate technology for future robotic and human exploration
1. Launch in July-August 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
2. Launching on a ULA Atlas 541
3. Land on Mars on February 18, 2021 at the site of an ancient river delta in a lake that once filled Jezero Crater
4. Spend at least one Mars year (two Earth years) exploring the landing site region
Rover Size and Dimensions
Perseverance’s body is very similar to that of Nasa’s previous rover, Curiosity. The car-sized Perseverance rover has roughly the same dimensions as Curiosity: it’s about 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall. But at 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms), Perseverance is about 278 pounds (126 kilograms) heavier than Curiosity.
Perseverance will test new technology for future robotic and human missions to the Red Planet. That includes an autopilot for avoiding hazards called Terrain Relative Navigation and a set of sensors for gathering data during the landing. As with Curiosity, Perseverance’s baseline power system is a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. It uses the heat from the natural decay of plutonium-238 to generate electricity.
The Mars 2020 Project is managed for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California. At NASA Headquarters, George Tahu is the Mars 2020 program executive and Mitchell Schulte is program scientist. At JPL, John McNamee is the Mars 2020 project manager and Ken Farley of Caltech is project scientist.