The Curiosity rover, still active since its arrival on Mars in 2012, will have to give way to the Perseverance rover, whose arrival is scheduled for Thursday evening. Nine years therefore separate the two devices. Their design is very close, apart from the wheels which have been reinforced. Apart from autonomous driving, improved to cover more terrain every day, the big differences are found in the on-board instruments. They will allow us to study the Martian environment with unprecedented precision.
“Perseverance has seven instruments instead of nine for Curiosity. But this new rover will inaugurate several entirely innovative technologies ”, explains Andres Debus, CNES project manager for French contributions to NASA’s Mars 2020 mission.
A fully robotic collection system
The US space agency has decided for the first time to return samples to Earth. This gives rise to the implementation of an extremely sophisticated process (see the video below). “The collection system is totally robotic and ultra-sophisticated”, enthuses the French scientist. “The drill attached to the robotic arm will take cores which will be placed in small hermetically sealed containers, then deposited on Mars in small packages. Another mission launched in 2025 or 2026 will recover them to be brought back to Earth in the early 2030s ”, he explains.
Here is a video from NASA on the collection system:
Spectrometers, radar and cameras
Perseverance is also equipped with a Franco-American tool to analyze rocks directly on site. Baptized SuperCam, he is the direct heir to ChemCam already present on Curiosity. “SuperCam consists of a LIBS spectrometer using an infrared laser, a Raman spectrometer using a green laser and a visible-infrared spectrometer to analyze Martian rocks and minerals several meters away”, lists André Debus. This instrument is handled remotely and in turn by scientists from Toulouse and Los Alamos. “SuperCam also has a color camera to take high resolution images and a microphone to capture the sound of impact on the rock”, he adds.
Among the tools that will play an important role in looking for potential signs of past life on Mars, there are other spectrometers like Sherloc, responsible for detecting the presence of organic matter, and Pixl (see below), which will determine the chemical composition of the rocks.
Perseverance is finally equipped with new generation cameras called Mastcam-Z that can zoom in on targets that are a distance equal to the length of a football field. Or Rimfax, a radar that will probe the underground geological features up to 10 meters deep. Finally, the weather station Honey will measure wind, humidity, infrared solar radiation and temperatures, in particular to develop models for future human exploration.
Two crazy demonstrators
Perserverance will implement two somewhat crazy technological demonstrators also intended to prepare the arrival one day of a manned mission on Mars. The first is called Moxie (see below) and aims to produce oxygen from carbon dioxide, which makes up 96% of the Martian atmosphere. A track to produce liquid oxygen serving as fuel to propel a rocket or simply to build up stocks allowing humans to breathe.
The second is a helicopter-shaped drone, Ingenuity which we have already told you about and which will have to accomplish the feat of flying with a lower gravity than on Earth.
And for the first time, the accumulated data will not need to be stored every day while waiting for the passage of a satellite orbiting around Mars to be sent. A steerable antenna specially designed by Airbus, the HGAS (High Gain Antenna System) will allow direct high-speed communication with the Earth in both directions.
Source: Science, recherche – 01net by www.01net.com.
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