Perseverance is investigating an
astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars for its
surface geological processes and history, and assessing its past
habitability, the possibility of past
life on Mars, and the potential for preservation of
biosignatures within accessible geological materials. It will
cache sample containers along its route for retrieval by a potential future
Mars sample-return mission. The Mars 2020 mission was announced by NASA in December 2012 at the fall meeting of the
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Perseverance's design is derived from the rover Curiosity, and it uses many components already fabricated and tested in addition to new scientific instruments and a
core drill. The rover also employs nineteen cameras and two microphones, allowing for the audio recording of the Martian environment. On 30 April 2021, Perseverance became the first spacecraft to hear and record another spacecraft, the Ingenuity helicopter, on another planet.
The launch of 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 (the
Emirates Mars Mission with the orbiter Hope on 19 July 2020) and China (the
Tianwen-1 mission on 23 July 2020, with an orbiter, deployable and remote cameras, lander, and Zhurong rover).
The Mars 2020 mission was announced by NASA on 4 December 2012 at the fall meeting of the
American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The selection of Mars as the target of NASA's flagship mission elicited surprise from some members of the scientific community. Some criticized NASA for continuing to focus on Mars exploration instead of other Solar System destinations in constrained budget times. Support came from California U.S. Representative
Adam Schiff, who said he was interested in the possibility of advancing the launch date, which would enable a larger payload. Science educator
Bill Nye endorsed the Mars sample-return role, saying this would be "extraordinarily fantastic and world-changing and worthy."
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, and the
Jet Propulsion Laboratory managed the mission. The mission is part of NASA's
Mars Exploration Program. 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.
In September 2013, NASA launched an Announcement of Opportunity for researchers to propose and develop the instruments needed, including the Sample Caching System. The science instruments for the mission were selected in July 2014 after an open competition based on the scientific objectives set one year earlier. The science conducted by the rover's instruments will provide the context needed for detailed analyses of the returned samples. 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.
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 the 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. 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 (O2) from
Martian atmosphericcarbon dioxide (
Improved precision landing technology that enhances the scientific value of robotic missions also will be critical for eventual human exploration on the surface. 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. The mission will also attempt to identify
subsurface water, improve landing techniques, and characterize
dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.
A key mission requirement for this rover is that it must help prepare NASA for its Mars sample-return mission (MSR) campaign, which is needed before any crewed mission takes place. Such effort would require three additional vehicles: an orbiter, a fetch rover, and a
solid-fueled Mars ascent vehicle (MAV). Between 20 and 30 drilled samples will be collected and cached inside small tubes by the Perseverance rover, and will be left on the surface of Mars for possible later retrieval by NASA in collaboration with
ESA. A "fetch rover" would retrieve the sample caches and deliver them to a
solid-fueled Mars ascent vehicle (MAV). In July 2018, NASA contracted
Airbus to produce a "fetch rover" concept study. The MAV would launch from Mars and enter a 500 km orbit and
rendezvous with the
Next Mars Orbiter or
Earth Return Orbiter. 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.
In the first science campaign Perseverance performs an arching drive southward from its landing site to the Séítah unit to perform a "toe dip" into the unit to collect remote-sensing measurements of geologic targets. After that she will return to the Crater Floor Fractured Rough to collect the first core sample there. Passing by the Octavia B. Butler landing site concludes the first science campaign.
The second campaign shall start with several months of travel towards the "Three Forks" where Perseverance can access geologic locations at the base of the ancient delta of Neretva river, as well as ascend the delta by driving up a valley wall to the northwest.
Cruise stage and EDLS
The three major components of the Mars 2020 spacecraft are the 539 kg (1,188 lb) cruise stage for travel between Earth and Mars; the
Entry, Descent, and Landing System (EDLS) that includes the 575 kg (1,268 lb)aeroshell descent vehicle + 440 kg (970 lb) heat shield; and the 1,070 kg (2,360 lb) (fueled mass)descent stage needed to deliver Perseverance and Ingenuity safely to the Martian surface. The Descent Stage carries 400 kg (880 lb) landing propellant for the final soft landing burn after being slowed down by a 21.5 m (71 ft)-wide, 81 kg (179 lb) parachute. The 1,025 kg (2,260 lb) rover is based on the design of
Curiosity. While there are differences in scientific instruments and the engineering required to support them, the entire landing system (including the
descent stage and heat shield) and rover chassis could essentially be recreated without any additional engineering or research. This reduces overall technical risk for the mission, while saving funds and time on development.
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. This system allowed for a landing accuracy within 40 m (130 ft) and avoided obstacles. 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). 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.
The cruise stage and
EDLS carried both spacecraft to Mars.
Perseverance was designed with help from Curiosity's engineering team, as both are quite similar and share common hardware. Engineers redesigned Perseverance's wheels to be more robust than Curiosity's, which, after kilometres of driving on the Martian surface, have shown progressed deterioration.Perseverance 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. The aluminium wheels are covered with cleats for traction and curved titanium spokes for springy support. The combination of the larger instrument suite, new Sampling and Caching System, and modified wheels makes Perseverance 14 percent heavier than Curiosity, at 1,025 kg (2,260 lb) and 899 kg (1,982 lb), respectively. 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.
Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), left over as a backup part for Curiosity during its construction, was integrated onto the rover to supply electrical power. 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. The electrical power generated is approximately 110 watts at launch with little decrease over the mission time.
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. Unlike solar panels, the MMRTG does not rely on the presence of the Sun for power, providing engineers with significant flexibility in operating the rover's instruments even at night and during dust storms, and through the winter season.
Each Mars mission contributes to an ongoing innovation chain. Each draws on prior operations or tested technologies and contributes uniquely to upcoming missions. By using this strategy, NASA is able to advance the frontiers of what is currently feasible while still depending on earlier advancements.
The Curiosity rover, which touched down on Mars in 2012, is directly responsible for a large portion of Perseverance's rover design, including its entry, descent, and landing mechanism. With Perseverance, new technological innovations will be demonstrated, and entry, descent, and landing capabilities will be improved. These advancements will help open the door for future robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars.
Ingenuity is a robotic
coaxial helicopter that made the first aircraft flights on another planet. It was deployed from the underside of Perseverance and uses autonomous control guided by flight plan instructions uploaded from mission control. After each landing, it transmits photographs and other data to Perseverance, which relays the information to Earth. NASA will build on the helicopter's design for future Mars missions.
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. The three sites chosen were Jezero crater, Northeastern Syrtis Major Planum, and Columbia Hills. Jezero crater was ultimately selected as the landing site in November 2018. 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.
Launch and cruise
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. The rocket was launched on 30 July 2020 at 11:50 UTC, and the rover landed on Mars on 18 February 2021 at 20:55 UTC, with a planned surface mission of at least one Mars year (668
sols or 687 Earth days). NASA was not the only Mars mission to use this window: the
United Arab Emirates Space Agency launched its
Emirates Mars Mission with the Hope orbiter on 20 July 2020, which arrived in Mars orbit on 8 February 2021, and
China National Space Administration launched Tianwen-1 on 23 July 2020, arriving in orbit on 10 February 2021 and successfully soft landed with the
Zhurong rover on 14 May 2021.
NASA announced that all of the trajectory correction maneuvers (TCM) were a success. The spacecraft fired thrusters to adjust its course toward Mars, shifting the probe's initial post-launch aim point onto the Red Planet.
Entry, descent, and landing (EDL)
Prior to landing, the Science Team from an earlier NASA lander,
InSight, announced that they would attempt to detect the
entry, descent and landing (EDL) sequence of the Mars 2020 mission using InSight's seismometers. Despite being more than 3,400 km (2,100 mi) away from the Mars landing site, the team indicated that there was a possibility that InSight's instruments would be sensitive enough to detect the hypersonic
impact of Mars 2020's cruise mass balance devices with the Martian surface.
The rover's landing was planned similar to the
Mars Science Laboratory used to deploy Curiosity on Mars in 2012. The craft from Earth was a carbon fiber capsule that protected the rover and other equipment from heat during entry into the Mars atmosphere and initial guidance towards the planned landing site. Once through, the craft jettisoned the lower heat shield and deployed a parachute from the backshell to slow the descent to a controlled speed. With the craft moving under 320 km/h (200 mph) and about 1.9 km (1.2 mi) from the surface, the rover and
sky crane assembly detached from the backshell, and rockets on the sky crane controlled the remaining descent to the planet. As the sky crane moved closer to the surface, it lowered Perseverance via cables until it confirmed touchdown, detached the cables, and flew a distance away to avoid damaging the rover.
Perseverance successfully landed on the surface of Mars with help of the sky crane on 18 February 2021 at 20:55 UTC, to begin its science phase, and began sending images back to Earth.Ingenuity reported back to NASA via the communications systems on Perseverance the following day, confirming its status. The helicopter was not expected to be deployed for at least 60 days into the mission. NASA also confirmed that the on-board microphone on Perseverance had survived
entry, descent and landing (EDL), along with other high-end visual recording devices, and released the first audio recorded on the surface of Mars shortly after landing, capturing the sound of a Martian
breeze as well as a hum from the rover itself. On 7 May 2021, NASA confirmed that Perseverance managed to record both audio and video from Ingenuity's fourth flight which took place on 30 April 2021.
20 April 2021 –
Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) generated 5.37 g (0.189 oz) of oxygen gas from carbon dioxide on its first test on Mars
1 June 2021 – Perseverance begins its first science campaign.
8 June 2021 – Seventh flight of Ingenuity.
21 June 2021 – Eighth flight of Ingenuity. The "watchdog issue", a recurring issue which occasionally prevented Ingenuity from taking flight, is fixed.
5 July 2021 – Ninth flight of Ingenuity. This flight is the first to explore areas only an aerial vehicle can, by taking a shortcut over the Séítah unit. The sandy ripples of the Séítah unit would prove too difficult for Perseverance to travel through directly.
Mid-August 2021 – Perseverance will have acquired its first sample from the ancient lakebed by drilling out "finger-size cores of Martian rock for return to Earth".
3 May 2022 – After 27 flights of Ingenuity, the rover lost contact with the helicopter. By suspending scientific operations on the rover to listen for signals from the helicopter, NASA was able to regain contact and resume flights.
In support of the
NASA-ESA Mars Sample Return, rock,
Martian soil), and atmosphere samples are being cached by Perseverance. Currently, out of 43 sample tubes, 18 of them have been cached, including 8 igneous rock samples, 11 sedimentary rock sample tubes, two regolith sample tubes, an atmosphere sample tube, and three witness tubes. Before launch, 5 of the 43 tubes were designated “witness tubes” and filled with materials that would capture particulates in the ambient environment of Mars. Out of 43 tubes, 3 witness sample tubes will not be returned to Earth and will remain on rover as the sample canister will only have 30 tube slots. Alongside, 10 of the 43 tubes are left at backup Three Forks Sample Depot.
First image taken by the rover after its successful landing
Second Perseverance rover image on Mars
First color image from Perseverance rover after landing
Ingenuity being deployed from under Persevervence
The deployed Ingenuity on Sol 46
Black-and-white photo from Ingenuity during its first test flight at an altitude of 1.2 m (3 ft 11 in), showing its shadow on the ground
First color aerial image on Mars taken by Ingenuity, at around 5.2 m (17 ft) high in flight
Ingenuity after its fifth flight landing on Airfield B (7 May 2021)
Ingenuity photographed the spacecraft backshell and parachute (April 19).
Perseverance photographed the spacecraft backshell and parachute (April 14).
Ingenuity photographed an apparent EDL debris (April 3).
Perseverance photographed a thermal blanket from the skycrane 2 km (1.2 mi) away from its crash site.
Perseverance Rover instruments
Graph of MOXIE's first martian oxygen production test, 20 April 2021
NASA plans to expend roughly US$2.8 billion on the Mars 2020 mission over 10 years: almost US$2.2 billion on the development of the
Perseverance rover, US$80 million on the
Ingenuity helicopter, US$243 million for launch services, and US$296 million for 2.5 years of mission operations. Adjusted for inflation, Mars 2020 is the sixth-most expensive robotic planetary mission made by NASA and is cheaper than its predecessor, the
Curiosity rover. As well as using spare hardware, Perseverance also used designs from Curiosity's mission without needing to redesign them, which helped save "probably tens of millions, if not 100 million dollars" according to Mars 2020 Deputy Chief Engineer Keith Comeaux.
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. There were 10,932,295 names submitted during the registration period. 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.Perseverance was announced to be the winning name on 5 March 2020.
"Send Your Name" placard attached to Perseverance
Sample souvenir boarding pass for those who registered their names to be flown aboard the Perseverance rover
Eventbrite Virtual Guest Program Post flight mission patch given to Eventbrite subscribers
In May 2020, NASA attached a small aluminum plate to Perseverance to commemorate the impact of the
COVID-19 pandemic and pay "tribute to the perseverance of healthcare workers around the world". The COVID-19 Perseverance Plate features planet Earth above the
Rod of Asclepius, with a line showing the trajectory of the Mars 2020 spacecraft departing Earth.
abcdefHarwood, William (4 December 2012).
"NASA announces plans for new US$1.5 billion Mars rover". CNET. Retrieved 5 December 2012. Using spare parts and mission plans developed for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, the space agency says it can build and launch the rover in 2020 and stay within current budget guidelines.
^Prince, Andrew; McCauley, Rachel; Kibbey, Timothy; McCollum, Lisa; Oglesby, Britt; Stenfanski, Philip (March 2019).
"Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV)"(PDF). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the
^"Mars 2020 Rover's 7-Foot-Long Robotic Arm Installed". mars.nasa.gov. 28 June 2019. Retrieved 1 July 2019. The main arm includes five electrical motors and five joints (known as the shoulder azimuth joint, shoulder elevation joint, elbow joint, wrist joint and turret joint). Measuring 7 feet (2.1 meters) long, the arm will allow the rover to work as a human geologist would: by holding and using science tools with its turret, which is essentially its "hand". This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the
Launches are separated by dots ( • ), payloads by commas ( , ), multiple names for the same satellite by slashes ( / ).
Cubesats are smaller. Crewed flights are underlined. Launch failures are marked with the † sign. Payloads deployed from other spacecraft are (enclosed in parentheses).