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Perseverance rover lands on Mars this week – FRANCE 24

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Issued on: 16/02/2021 – 02:48Modified: 16/02/2021 – 02:47

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Washington (AFP)

After a seven-month journey, NASA’s Perseverance rover prepares to touch down on Mars on Thursday after first negotiating a risky landing procedure that will mark the start of its multi-year search for signs of ancient microbial life.

The Mars 2020 mission, which set off late from Florida in late July, includes the largest ever vehicle to be dispatched to the Red Planet.

Built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it weighs a ton, has a robotic arm that’s seven feet (two meters) long, has 19 cameras, and two microphones to record the Martian soundscape.

Should it arrive intact, Perseverance will be only the fifth rover to successfully complete the journey since Pathfinder in 1997. All have been American and the last, Curiosity, is still active.

China last week placed its Tianwen-1 spacecraft in orbit around Mars carrying both a lander and a rover, which it is hoped to land in May.

At around 3:55pm EST Thursday (2055 GMT), Perseverance will place its six wheels on a landing site described as “spectacular” by Ken Farley, a NASA scientist.

Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer-wide) basin located in the Martian northern hemisphere, had been considered for previous missions, but was considered too difficult to land in until now.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the mission control room will have fewer people than normal.

“But assuming we do have confirmation of landing, I don’t think Covid is gonna be able to stop us from jumping up and down and fist pumping,” said Matt Wallace, the mission’s deputy project manager.

The first low resolution photos of the surface will arrive quickly. Video footage, including entry into the atmosphere, is expected later.

– Lakes and rivers –

Scientists believe that around 3.5 billion years ago, the crater was home to a river that flowed into a lake, depositing sediment in a fan-shaped delta.

During this period, “Mars was very similar to Earth in several important ways,” said Farley.

“It had a substantial atmosphere, it had lakes and rivers on its surface, and it had habitable environments, places where organisms that we know about on earth today could have thrived.”

Mars is the only known place where such conditions arose outside our planet.

Mars 2020 is the first mission with the explicit aim of finding evidence that life once existed there.

Over the course of several years, Perseverance will collect and store up to 30 rock and soil samples that will eventually be returned to Earth where labs will analyze them.

Its top speed is 152 meters per hour (about 0.1 miles per hour) — sluggish by Earth standards but faster than any of its predecessors, as it traverses first the delta, then the ancient lake shore, and finally the edges of the crater.

The rover could return the samples as part of a planned joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency in the 2030s.

“The scientists who will analyze these samples are in school today, they might not even be born yet,” said Farley.

– Producing oxygen –

What would these long awaited signs of life look like? “We should not be looking for fossil teeth or fossil bones or fossil leaves,” he said.

Rather, it’s hunting for organic molecules and other signs of past microbial life, a discovery that would be “fabulous.”

The first months of the mission won’t however be devoted to this primary objective. Parallel experiments are also planned.

NASA notably wants to fly, for the first time, a powered aircraft on another planet. The helicopter, dubbed Ingenuity, must be able to ascend in an atmosphere just one percent the density of Earth’s.

Another goal is to help pave the way for future human missions, by developing a system that can convert oxygen from Mars’ primarily carbon dioxide atmosphere, much like a plant.

The space agency is deploying an instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), using a process called electrolysis to produce about 10 grams of oxygen an hour.

NASA is spending approximately $2.4 billion on the Mars 2020 million. Landing and operating the rover costs around $300 million.

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Calgary-based EVANS ‘proud’ to be part of NASA’s Perseverance rover project – Global News

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Calgarians working at a tech company are proud to see their work in action as NASA’s Perseverance rover gathers samples from a planet millions of kilometres away.

EVANS’ chief technology officer Matko Papic said the company, which was founded in Calgary in 1980, has been a global player in aviation, public safety and space operations and has focused on designing and equipping control rooms for decades.

He said the company gets involved with the early planning and detailed designs of the space and then designs the consoles specific to customer requirements, they do all the manufacturing and support their customers globally.

Their latest collaboration was on Perseverance, NASA’s rover that landed on Mars earlier this month.

Read more:
Take a look around Mars with Perseverance rover’s HD photo panorama

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The rover specializes in travelling the planet Mars to look for signs of ancient life and pick up a wide range of core rock and soil samples and store them safely, so they can be returned to earth and studied.

EVANS supplied control room consoles to the company in Texas, and Papic said the employees we thrilled with being a part of the project.

“You know, we as a … Calgary-based company are very fortunate and very proud to … be able to be a part of this program.” Papic said

“It’s both a sense of pride and a little bit of a sense of relief. But I think it’s mainly … pride that’s just, you know, being involved even in such a small piece.”

Papic told Global News that there are lots of future opportunities and EVANS is excited to continue to be a part of projects like this.


Click to play video 'NASA releases 1st video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars'



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NASA releases 1st video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars


NASA releases 1st video of Perseverance rover landing on Mars

He said that navigating a mission from northeast Calgary when all the equipment is in Houston is not an easy task, but it is very doable.

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“I think a big part of that is we’ve been able to develop a very unique and value-added product offering, and I think the fact that we support our customers and every aspect of their operational needs and the fact that we can support our customers globally, Papic said.

“With these specific solutions its really made a difference and its helped evolve EVANS into a global player.”

EVANS involvement in Perseverance was primarily in the control room and all elements were designed and manufactured in Calgary.

“That’s usually where Evans does most of our work is within the control room environment, and it varies by the type of mission. But they’re all control rooms that require continuous monitoring.” Papic said

Papic mentioned that due to high-level requirements, these projects can take quite some time to complete.

“We want to make sure that we’re focusing on capturing all the requirements and making sure that the design is absolutely perfect because the last thing we want is, you know, something that Evans provided to be a hindrance in the overall mission and so we’re very, very diligent to making sure that everything is functioning perfectly before it actually gets commissioned and goes live.” Papic said

The company’s relationship with NASA began decades ago as they began supporting them on some of the space shuttle missions both from a mission and launch control standpoint. EVANS has been involved with some other well-known projects.

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“We’ve done projects for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; we’ve done projects for the Hubble Space Telescope, so different programs within NASA,” Papic said.

“And we’ve been very fortunate as an organization that NASA continued to see us as a partner in helping them develop some of these solutions.”


Click to play video 'Saskatchewan scientist helps lead team in Mars mission'



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Saskatchewan scientist helps lead team in Mars mission


Saskatchewan scientist helps lead team in Mars mission

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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New Mars image from rover landing site shows the red planet in high definition – CTV News

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The Perseverance rover has had a chance to settle in on Mars since landing last Thursday, so it’s doing what every new resident does these days — sending back photos of its new home.

In this case, it’s a steady stream of amazing imagery from another planet.

The rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument, a pair of zoomable color cameras, returned 142 images of its landing site on February 21. The teams at NASA stitched them together to create the instrument’s first 360-degree panorama.

This is the first high-definition look at Jezero Crater, the site of a 3.9 billion-year-old dry lake bed where the rover will search for signs of ancient life over the next two years.

In the image, the crater rim and the cliff face of an ancient river delta can be seen in the distance. It’s not unlike images shared previously by NASA’s Curiosity rover of its exploration site in Gale Crater.

“We’re nestled right in a sweet spot, where you can see different features similar in many ways to features found by Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity at their landing sites,” said Jim Bell, principal investigator of the Mastcam-Z instrument at Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, in a statement.

Perseverance also sent back a panorama using its Navcams, or navigation cameras, over the weekend.

Mastcam-Z is a new feature on Perseverance that builds off of lessons learned from the Curiosity rover’s Mastcam instrument. Curiosity’s Mastcam has two cameras with a fixed focal length, while Mastcam-Z has zooming capability.

These two cameras are like high-definition eyes on Perseverance as she shares her view with a team of scientists and engineers at home.

They sit on the rover’s mast, reaching eye level for a person who stands just over 6 and a half feet tall. The cameras are 9.5 inches apart to allow for stereo vision.

The color imagery produced by Mastcam-Z is a lot like the quality you would expect from your own digital HD camera, NASA officials said. These cameras can not only zoom but also can focus to capture video, panoramas and 3D images.

This will allow scientists on the mission’s team to examine objects that are both close and far away from the rover.

In the panorama, details as small as 0.1 to 0.2 inches across can be seen if an object is near the rover, while those between 6.5 to 10 feet across in the distance are also visible.

These capabilities will aid the overall goals of the mission in both understanding the geologic history of the crater and identifying the types of rock that the rover’s other instruments should study. The views afforded by Mastcam-Z will also help scientists determine which rocks they should collect samples from that will eventually be returned to Earth by future missions.

The team working on the Mastcam-Z instrument will share more details about the panorama Thursday, February 25 at 4 p.m. ET on NASA’s website and social media accounts.

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The best images from NASA's Perseverance rover so far – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Almost as soon as NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars it was beaming back images of its surroundings.

The first pictures were black and white and a little grainy. They were soon followed by video and high definition images of the rocks, ridges and the rover itself.

Here’s a collection of some of the best images to come from Perseverance’ so far.

FIRST IMAGES

First image from Perseverance

This is the first image NASA’s Perseverance rover sent back after touching down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. The view, from one of Perseverance’s Hazard Cameras, is partially obscured by a dust cover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

First colour image from Perseverance

Perseverance’s shadow can be seen in this image, the first one in colour sent by the rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

TOUCHDOWN

Perseverance's descent

As a teaser to some of the ground-breaking video to come, NASA released this image of Perseverance being gently lowered onto Mars’s surface during its descent on Feb. 18. (NASA via AP) 

SECRET MESSAGE

Perseverance's secret message

In video sent back by Perseverance, we can see the spacecraft’s parachute open, revealing a mix of white and orange markings on the inside. These were later revealed to be part of secret message left by NASA systems engineer Ian Clark. Clark used binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” on the stripes of the 21-metre parachute. Also included were the GPS coordinates of the mission’s headquarters in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

HD PANORAMAS

Panorama from Perseverance

While we’ve seen panorama images from previous rover missions, Perseverance’s high definition cameras are revealing details from Mars like we’ve never seen before. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

WIND-CARVED ROCK

Wind-carved rock on Mars

This oddly-shaped rock carved by the elements on Mars’ surface was spotted near Perseverance’s landing zone and is an example of the high-quality images that we can expect from the rover’s cameras. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

ROVER ‘FAMILY HISTORY’

Rover 'family history'

Along with loads of science instruments Perseverance is also boasting a decal showing the history of NASA’s rovers on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

TRIBUTE TO DESCENT STAGE

'Moment of respect' for the descent stage

“A moment of respect for the descent stage,” NASA tweeted from the Perseverance’s twitter account after about a week after the landing. The image above shows a smoke plume from where the descent stage (the part of the spacecraft that lowered Perseverance gently to Mars’ surface) made its “intentional surface impact.” (@NASAPersevere/Twitter)

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