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“It’s a tough business,” Wallace says. “It’s a very aggressive, high risk, high reward experience. We can’t wait to get there and see it fly.
Seeing is the strength of perseverance. In addition to mounting 19 cameras on various parts of the rover, NASA has added cameras to the Celestial Crane, a powered descent vehicle that, after being slowed down by a massive parachute, will lower the rover to the ground on a cable before s ‘fly away. .
“For the first time ever, we’re going to have high definition video of a spaceship landing on another planet,” Wallace says. “We’re going to have some really interesting footage.”
One of the last tricks of Perseverance will be years in the making. The rover has the capacity to collect and store up to 40 rock and soil samples that can be sent back to Earth on a future mission.
“That’s really the point of sample return,” Wallace says. “To assert that there was once ancient life on a planet other than Earth is a pretty deep statement, and it requires a pretty high bar of proof. And the community has come to the conclusion that they cannot reach this level of understanding without applying the full power of Earth science to the samples. The signatures are just too weak and varied to do so with the limited set of instruments you can bring to the surface. ”
To that end, the rover will collect its samples and leave them on the surface for a so-called “fetch rover,” currently in development, to be collected later this decade.
Or, says Wallace, “If the rover stays healthy, one option is for our vehicle to take it to the next lander and drop the samples there. The lander will put them in what’s called a Mars Ascension Vehicle, which is a small rocket, and put them into orbit around Mars, then an orbiter will go with the samples into orbit and collect them and bring them back. on earth. ”
If Perseverance is a latest-generation automobile, consider it the ultimate in curbside pickup.