US space agency NASA’s Perseverance rover is all set to head to Mars. Perseverance launch time in India is 5.20 pm on July 30. It will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and NASA will be live streaming the entire event from 4.30 pm IST.
Perseverance that will follow China's rover-orbiter combo and a United Arab Emirates orbiter, will arrive at Jezero in February. It will take Perseverance will close to seven months to reach Jezero, a one-time lake, and a crater close to 30 miles wide. This is a distance of nearly 300 million miles.
The timings of the launches were based on the proximity between Mars and Earth. In the month of July, the two planets were close enough to permit just a six-month journey.
Perseverance is almost the clone of Curiosity, the Mars rover that landed 8 years ago and discovered signs of a habitable lake. The rover that has a mass of 1,050 kgs, however, boasts of some of the most sophisticated instruments that have ever made it to space. It is also equipped with a miniature helicopter named Ingenuity that weighs 1.8 kilos. It will be the first of its kind to fly on Mars.
NASA’s Perseverance is also the first rover to carry 19 cameras that will send back better resolution images of Mars to Earth.
It is supposed to touch down in an ancient river delta known as the Jezero Crater. The rover will follow the tracks of the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012 and is still operational. It could successfully confirm that there was a lake at the Gale Crater billions of years ago, which might have supported microorganisms.
Perseverance will scrounge for evidence of past microscopic life in an ancient lakebed, and gather the most promising rock samples for future pickup. NASA is teaming up with the European Space Agency to return the samples to Earth around 2031. However, if due to some unfortunate turn of events, the US rover fails to launch, it will have to wait for another 26 months until Earth and Mars orbits come this close.
This unprecedented effort will involve multiple launches and spacecraft and cost more than $8 billion. So far, the US is the only country to land successfully at Mars.
If all goes well, Perseverance will become the ninth US spacecraft to operate on the Martian surface by next February.
Here's a quick look at key details of the mission as per NASA:Mission Name: Mars 2020
Tech Demo: The Mars Helicopter is a technology demonstration, hitching a ride on the Perseverance rover.A factsheet on NASA's latest Mars Mission with Perserverance rover can be accessed here.