On February 18th , a Rover called ‘Perseverance’, launched on July 30th, landed successfully on Mars.
it is not the first rover that has touched the surface of Mars, before it ,there was Curiosity (launched in 2012) . But it is the first one sent there to look for past life. Lots of engineers has worked on it, and developed many innovations such as ‘Ingenuity’, a little helicopter that will attempt its flight on the red planet. It could be the first thing that flies on another planet. But, why is it so difficult to make something fly on Mars?
Mars’ atmosphere is less dense than Earth’s, so ,in order to fly, an helicopter has to spin its blades 2000/3000 times per second when on earth 200 or 300 is enough to lift off. Due to these reasons, engineer had to create fast and light blades, able to spin that fast, and they succeeded!! Ingenuity will attempt its flight on April 11th.
What about its trip to reach Mars?
As I said, Perseverance was launched on July from Cape Canaveral, on a beautiful rocket, designed by NASA, that took 7 months to reach its destination. But the most difficult and scary phase was entering Mars’ atmosphere. This phase took the name of ‘7 minutes of terror’. In these 7 minutes, the spaceship had to slow down, open the parachute, and land on the surface, while NASA’s team on earth couldn’t receive any signal in real time (it takes 11 minutes for a signal to reach earth from Mars’ surface). During these 7 minutes, the spaceship reached impressively high temperatures (1263 °C), but the rover was protected by a heat shield, dropped on mars surface before the parachute’s deploy, used to decrease the speed.
A few seconds after the parachute, the real landing stage was dropped, and thanks to its engines it was able to slow down till 0 m/s, in order to deploy the Rover in the right place: Jezero Crater, which scientists say contained a large lake of liquid water more than three billion years ago.
This is certainly a huge achievement for space exploration and engineering. Space studies are giving results and many companies are putting a lot of effort in this field, so I hope we will be able to send humans on Mars soon and start a new life there.
(in the picture “Perseverance” from Wikipedia.org)