What to Know
- Built at SoCal's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, rover Perseverance is set for launch Thursday.
- Several key components are part of the rover, including a drill and camera.
- Launch is scheduled for Thursday at 4:50 a.m. California time.
NASA is launching a spaceship to the planet Mars.
On board is a Mars rover named Perseverance. This mission, set to launch Thursday morning, is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and this trip is like nothing we’ve ever seen.
The Mars rover is the size of a car, 10 feet long, 9 feet wide and 7 feet tall. The extension is called a turret; it’s the head of the robotic arm.
On that arm are two important pieces: the drill and the SHERLOC AND WATSON. WATSON is the name of the camera. SHERLOC is an acronym. It stands for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescences for Organics and Chemicals. Basically, this piece uses a laser to dissect minerals searching for organic compounds — or, said another way, it’s searching for life.
My favorite parts of the vehicle are the MEDA and MOXIE — of course, more acronyms. MEDA stands for Mars Environment Dynamics Analyzer. That is a really fancy way of saying it’s a weather station. But it’s vital! The information gathered from MEDA will help scientists create accurate weather predictions on Mars, keeping future astronauts safe.
MOXIE is the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment. Moxie will be conducting experiments trying to create oxygen on the planet.
Now, this is awesome! This is Ingenuity, a 4-pound robotic helicopter that lives in the belly of the rover. It will be the first aircraft to ever fly on another planet. And it isn’t easy to do. The atmosphere is extremely thin — it’s 1% as thick as our planet, making it difficult to generate lift.
The rover is expected to land Feb. 18 of next year, and that is when these experiments begin.