February 18th, 3:55 PM Est from the planet Mars
Before we get to today’s events, lets go back many months. To July 30th of 2020, It’s a beautiful morning along Cape Canaveral and the skies are clear as we see an Atlas V rocket in the 541 configuration lift off at 7:50 AM Est from SLC-41 at then Canaveral Air Force Station. ULA (United Launch Alliance) has provided NASA with every trip to Mars, and this morning would be no different, as on board that Atlas V was the newest Mars rover, named “Perseverance”. The Atlas V is the work horse of the ULA line up, the 541 configuration means it has a five meter fairing, making the overall height of the rocket 197 ft tall. 4 AJ-60A SRB’s (solid rocket boosters) provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The 1 standing for the one RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur Upper stage. This is the same configuration that launched “Curiosity”, the last NASA rover to explore the surface of the Red Planet. This was the exact same configuration that launched the “Curiosity” rover (the last rover to make the trip) and the 139th mission for ULA.
ULA (United Launch Alliance) has provided every rocket launched to bring NASA to Mars. This mission using the Mighty Atlas V in the 541 configuration. Nicknamed “The Dominator” the 541 means it has a 5 meter fairing, making the overall height of the rocket 197 ft tall. 4 AJ-60A SRB’s (solid rocket boosters) provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The 1 standing for the one RL10C-1 engine for the Centaur Upper stage. This is the same configuration that launched “Curiosity”, the last NASA rover to explore the surface of the Red Planet. This marks the 139th mission for ULA, and with an overall 100% success rate, they make an obvious choice. This is only the 7th launch of an Atlas V in the 541 configuration.
Only having just been named less than a year ago after a contest with over twenty eight thousand entrants, we know of the name “Perseverance” but many don’t know it’s construction began sever years ago under the direction of JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). Alexander Mather, a seventh grader from Springfield, VA. submitted the essay which would win the rover the title “Perseverance”
“Curiosity. InSight. Spirit. Opportunity. If you think about it, all of these names of past Mars rovers are qualities we possess as humans. We are always curious, and seek opportunity. We have the spirit and insight to explore the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But, if rovers are to be the qualities of us as a race, we missed the most important thing. Perseverance. We as humans evolved as creatures who could learn to adapt to any situation, no matter how harsh. We are a species of explorers, and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars. However, we can persevere. We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up. The human race will always persevere into the future.”
The rover itself is about ten feet long, nine feet wide, and seven feet tall and weighs about 2,260 in total. In addition to all the roving capabilities it carries it comes equipped with a unique item that will also help us learn more of the Planet Mars. A twin rotor, solar powered helicopter. It’s considered by NASA a high risk, high reward demonstration. Meaning that if the small craft encounters difficulties the science gathering mission won’t be impacted, but if it does work as designed it will pave the way for future Mars missions to add aerial impute to their data collecting.
Today, February 18th, 2021. “Perseverance” will land at 3:55 PM Est. at the Jezero crater, a location chosen because it contains and ancient lake where the search for ancient life will begin. But before that part of the mission can begin the rover must safely land on the planet. with temperatures around 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit, and traveling around 1000 miles per hour, the rover will enter Mar’s atmosphere before deploying parachutes, in the ‘sky crane maneuver’ which was used by “Curiosity” as well back in 2012. Once it’s closer to the surface it will be deployed similar to soldiers repelling from a helicopter. A nylon tether will lower the rover itself to the Martian surface safely around 2mph. Because of the lag in signal, the entire event will be done for about eleven minutes before we on Earth will know if the landing was successful or not.
The 2.7 billion dollar rover has travelled 291 million miles to reach Mars and begin it’s journey of science exploration. This will be the 9th mission to land on the red planet and the fifth rover now. It is also it’s most sophisticated rover yet, with it’s primary mission on finding out if there was ever past life on the planet.