Mars 2020

Mars 2020
Artist's impression of Perseverance and Ingenuity
Mission typeMars exploration
COSPAR ID2020-052A
SATCAT no.45983
Mission duration
  • 179d 3h 24m (elapsed)
  • 1 Mars year (668 sols, 687 Earth days) (planned)
Spacecraft properties
Start of mission
Launch date30 July 2020, 11:50 UTC
RocketAtlas V 541 (AV-088)
Launch siteCCAFS, SLC-41
ContractorUnited Launch Alliance
Mars rover
Landing date18 February 2021
Landing siteJezero crater
Mars 2020 NASA insignia.svg Mars 2020 JPL second insignia.svg
NASA (left) and JPL (right) insignias  

Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission by NASA's Mars Exploration Program that includes the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity helicopter drone. It was launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UTC,[1] and will touch down in Jezero crater on Mars on 18 February 2021.[2][3]

Perseverance will investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars and investigate its surface geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability, the possibility of past life on Mars, and the potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geological materials.[4][5] It will cache sample containers along its route for retrieval by a potential future Mars sample-return mission.[5][6][7] The Mars 2020 mission was announced by NASA on 4 December 2012 at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.[8] The Perseverance rover's design is derived from the Curiosity rover, and will use many components already fabricated and tested, new scientific instruments and a core drill.[9]

Mars 2020 was the third of three space missions sent toward Mars during the July 2020 Mars launch window, with missions also launched by the national space agencies of the United Arab Emirates (Hope orbiter) and China (Tianwen-1, with an orbiter, lander, and rover). All three are expected to arrive at Mars in February 2021.


Sample tubes being loaded into the Perseverance rover. These tubes, launched from Earth in July 2020, may become the first equipment to complete a round trip to Mars and back, returning in 2031.
Picture of the Perseverance Rover at JPL
The Perseverance Rover at JPL

The mission will seek signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, and will also search for evidence — or biosignatures — of past microbial life, and water. The mission was launched 30 July 2020 on an Atlas V-541,[8] and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed the mission. The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program.[10][11][12][6] The Science Definition Team proposed that the rover collect and package as many as 31 samples of rock cores and surface soil for a later mission to bring back for definitive analysis on Earth. In 2015, they expanded the concept, planning to collect even more samples and distribute the tubes in small piles or caches across the surface of Mars.[13] In September 2013, NASA launched an Announcement of Opportunity for researchers to propose and develop the instruments needed, including the Sample Caching System.[14][15] The science instruments for the mission were selected in July 2014 after an open competition based on the scientific objectives set one year earlier.[16][17] The science conducted by the rover's instruments will provide the context needed for detailed analyses of the returned samples.[18] The chairman of the Science Definition Team stated that NASA does not presume that life ever existed on Mars, but given the recent Curiosity rover findings, past Martian life seems possible.[18]

The Perseverance rover will explore a site likely to have been habitable. It will seek signs of past life, set aside a returnable cache with the most compelling rock core and soil samples, and demonstrate technology needed for the future human and robotic exploration of Mars. A key mission requirement is that it must help prepare NASA for its long-term Mars sample-return mission and crewed mission efforts.[5][6][7] The rover will make measurements and technology demonstrations to help designers of a future human expedition understand any hazards posed by Martian dust, and will test technology to produce a small amount of pure oxygen (O
) from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO
).[19] Improved precision landing technology that enhances the scientific value of robotic missions also will be critical for eventual human exploration on the surface.[20] Based on input from the Science Definition Team, NASA defined the final objectives for the 2020 rover. Those became the basis for soliciting proposals to provide instruments for the rover's science payload in the spring of 2014.[19] The mission will also attempt to identify subsurface water, improve landing techniques, and characterize weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.[21]

A key mission requirement for this rover is that it must help prepare NASA for its Mars sample-return mission (MSR) campaign,[22][23][24] which is needed before any crewed mission takes place.[5][6][7] Such effort would require three additional vehicles: an orbiter, a fetch rover, and a two-stage, solid-fueled Mars ascent vehicle (MAV).[25][26] Between 20 and 30 drilled samples will be collected and cached inside small tubes by the Perseverance rover,[27] and will be left on the surface of Mars for possible later retrieval by NASA in collaboration with ESA.[24][27] A "fetch rover" would retrieve the sample caches and deliver them to a two-stage, solid-fueled Mars ascent vehicle (MAV). In July 2018, NASA contracted Airbus to produce a "fetch rover" concept study.[28] The MAV would launch from Mars and enter a 500 km orbit and rendezvous with the Next Mars Orbiter or Earth Return Orbiter.[24] The sample container would be transferred to an Earth entry vehicle (EEV) which would bring it to Earth, enter the atmosphere under a parachute and hard-land for retrieval and analyses in specially designed safe laboratories.[23][24]


Perseverance rover

Spacecraft of Mars 2020
Perseverance will carry seven scientific instruments across the Martian surface.
Ingenuity will scout for points of interest for Perseverance to study.
The cruise stage and EDLS will carry both spacecraft to Mars.

The Perseverance rover was designed with help from Curiosity's engineering team, as both are quite similar.[8][29] Engineers redesigned the Perseverance rover wheels to be more robust than Curiosity's wheels, which have sustained some damage.[30] The rover will have thicker, more durable aluminium wheels, with reduced width and a greater diameter (52.5 cm (20.7 in)) than Curiosity's 50 cm (20 in) wheels.[31][32] The aluminium wheels are covered with cleats for traction and curved titanium spokes for springy support.[33] The combination of the larger instrument suite, new Sampling and Caching System, and modified wheels makes Perseverance (1025 kg) heavier than its predecessor Curiosity (899 kg),[32] by 14%. The rover will include a five-jointed robotic arm measuring 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) long. The arm will be used in combination with a turret to analyze geologic samples from the Martian surface.[34] A Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), left over as a backup part for Curiosity during its construction, will power the rover.[8][35] The generator has a mass of 45 kg (99 lb) and contains 4.8 kg (11 lb) of plutonium dioxide as the source of steady supply of heat that is converted to electricity.[36] The electrical power generated is approximately 110 watts at launch with little decrease over the mission time.[36] Two lithium-ion rechargeable batteries are included to meet peak demands of rover activities when the demand temporarily exceeds the MMRTG's steady electrical output levels. The MMRTG offers a 14-year operational lifetime, and it was provided to NASA by the United States Department of Energy.[36] Unlike solar panels, the MMRTG provides engineers with significant flexibility in operating the rover's instruments even at night and during dust storms, and through the winter season.[36]

Ingenuity helicopter

Ingenuity is a robotic helicopter that will test the technology to scout interesting targets for study on Mars, and help plan the best driving route for Perseverance.[37][38] The aircraft will be deployed from the rover's deck, and is expected to fly up to five times during its 30-day test campaign early in the mission.[39] Each flight will take no more than 3 minutes, at altitudes ranging from 3 m to 10 m above the ground,[40] but it could potentially cover a maximum distance of about 600 m (2,000 ft) per flight.[41] It will use autonomous control and communicate with Perseverance directly after each landing. If it works as expected, NASA will be able to build on the design for future Mars missions.[40]

Cruise stage and EDLS

Animation of Mars 2020's trajectory around Sun
  Mars 2020 ·  Sun ·   Earth ·   Mars
Mars 2020 Perseverance Launch - 30 July 2020, 11:50 UTC.

The three major components of the Mars 2020 spacecraft are the cruise stage for travel between Earth and Mars; the Entry, Descent, and Landing System (EDLS) that includes the aeroshell, parachute, descent vehicle, and sky crane needed to deliver Perseverance and Ingenuity safely to the Martian surface. The rover is based on the design of Curiosity.[8] While there are differences in scientific instruments and the engineering required to support them, the entire landing system (including the sky crane and heat shield) and rover chassis can essentially be recreated without any additional engineering or research. This reduces overall technical risk for the mission, while saving funds and time on development.[42] One of the upgrades is a guidance and control technique called "Terrain Relative Navigation" (TRN) to fine-tune steering in the final moments of landing.[43][44] This system will allow for a landing accuracy within 40 m (130 ft) and avoid obstacles.[45] This is a marked improvement from the Mars Science Laboratory mission that had an elliptical area of 7 by 20 km (4.3 by 12.4 mi).[46] In October 2016, NASA reported using the Xombie rocket to test the Lander Vision System (LVS), as part of the Autonomous Descent and Ascent Powered-flight Testbed (ADAPT) experimental technologies, for the Mars 2020 mission landing, meant to increase the landing accuracy and avoid obstacle hazards.[47][48]


The Jezero crater delta, where the Perseverance rover and Mars Helicopter Ingenuity, will land; clays are visible as green in this false colour CRISM / CTX image.

The rover mission and launch are estimated to cost about US$2.1 billion.[22] The mission's predecessor, the Mars Science Laboratory, cost US$2.5 billion in total.[8] The availability of spare parts makes the new rover somewhat more affordable. The launch window, when the positions of Earth and Mars were optimal for traveling to Mars, opened on 17 July 2020 and lasted through 15 August 2020.[49] The rocket was launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UTC, and the rover is scheduled to land on Mars on 18 February 2021 at 20:00 UTC, with a planned surface mission of at least one Mars year (668 sols or 687 Earth days).[50][51][52]

The mission will explore Jezero crater, which scientists speculate was a 250 m (820 ft) deep lake about 3.9 billion to 3.5 billion years ago.[2] Jezero today features a prominent river delta where water flowing through it deposited much sediment over the eons, which is "extremely good at preserving biosignatures".[2][3] The sediments in the delta likely include carbonates and hydrated silica, known to preserve microscopic fossils on Earth for billions of years.[53] Prior to the selection of Jezero, eight proposed landing sites for the mission were under consideration by September 2015; Columbia Hills in Gusev crater, Eberswalde crater, Holden crater, Jezero crater,[54][55] Mawrth Vallis, Northeastern Syrtis Major Planum, Nili Fossae, and Southwestern Melas Chasma.[56] A workshop was held on 8–10 February 2017 in Pasadena, California, to discuss these sites, with the goal of narrowing down the list to three sites for further consideration.[57] The three sites chosen were Jezero crater, Northeastern Syrtis Major Planum, and Columbia Hills.[58] Jezero crater was ultimately selected as the landing site in November 2018.[2] The "fetch rover" for returning the samples is expected to launch in 2026. The landing and surface operations of the "fetch rover" would take place early in 2029. The earliest return to Earth is envisaged for 2031.[59]

Trajectory corrections

NASA said on 14 August 2020 that the Mars 2020 mission's first trajectory correction maneuver (TCM) was a success. The spacecraft fired eight thrusters to adjust its course toward Mars, beginning to shift the probe's initial post-launch aim point on to the Red Planet. The next trajectory correction burns for Mars 2020 are scheduled for 10 February 2021 and 16 February 2021. That will set the stage for the Perseverance rover's landing on Mars on 18 February 2021.[60]

Public outreach

To raise public awareness of the Mars 2020 mission, NASA undertook a "Send Your Name To Mars" campaign, through which people could send their names to Mars on a microchip stored aboard Perseverance. After registering their names, participants received a digital ticket with details of the mission's launch and destination. 10,932,295 names were submitted during the registration period.[61] In addition, NASA announced in June 2019 that a student naming contest for the rover would be held in the fall of 2019, with voting on nine finalist names held in January 2020.[62] Perseverance was announced to be the winning name on 5 March 2020.[63][64]

"Send Your Name to Mars" campaign of Mars 2020
'Send Your Name' Placard Attached to Perseverance.

See also


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External links

Further reading
Acheron FossaeAcidalia PlanitiaAlba MonsAmazonis PlanitiaAonia PlanitiaArabia TerraArcadia PlanitiaArgentea PlanumArgyre PlanitiaChryse PlanitiaClaritas FossaeCydonia MensaeDaedalia PlanumElysium MonsElysium PlanitiaGale craterHadriaca PateraHellas MontesHellas PlanitiaHesperia PlanumHolden craterIcaria PlanumIsidis PlanitiaJezero craterLomonosov craterLucus PlanumLycus SulciLyot craterLunae PlanumMalea PlanumMaraldi craterMareotis FossaeMareotis TempeMargaritifer TerraMie craterMilankovič craterNepenthes MensaeNereidum MontesNilosyrtis MensaeNoachis TerraOlympica FossaeOlympus MonsPlanum AustralePromethei TerraProtonilus MensaeSirenumSisyphi PlanumSolis PlanumSyria PlanumTantalus FossaeTempe TerraTerra CimmeriaTerra SabaeaTerra SirenumTharsis MontesTractus CatenaTyrrhen TerraUlysses PateraUranius PateraUtopia PlanitiaValles MarinerisVastitas BorealisXanthe TerraMap of Mars
The image above contains clickable linksInteractive image map of the global topography of Mars, overlain with locations of Mars landers and rovers. Hover your mouse over the image to see the names of over 60 prominent geographic features, and click to link to them. Coloring of the base map indicates relative elevations, based on data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor. Whites and browns indicate the highest elevations (+12 to +8 km); followed by pinks and reds (+8 to +3 km); yellow is 0 km; greens and blues are lower elevations (down to −8 km). Axes are latitude and longitude; Polar regions are noted.
(See also: Mars map, Mars Memorials, Mars Memorials map) (view • discuss)
(   Active Rover  Active Lander  Future )
Beagle 2
Bradbury Landing
Deep Space 2
Columbia Memorial Station
InSight Landing
Mars 2020
Mars 2
Mars 3
Mars 6
Mars Polar Lander
Challenger Memorial Station
Green Valley
Schiaparelli EDM lander
Carl Sagan Memorial Station
Columbia Memorial Station
Thomas Mutch Memorial Station
Gerald Soffen Memorial Station

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