The Mars Rover

The Mars Rover
NASA’s Mars Rover, the Perseverance, succesfully landed on Mars on 18th February 2021.

On 30th July 2020, NASA launched its 5th rover towards Mars. The names of the 5 rovers include: Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and Perseverance. 

When the rocket launched last year, the likelihood of the rover successfully landing on Mars was a mere 50% chance. Reaching Mars is a challenging and unforgiving endeavour, with no room for error from the NASA team. 

Failures can occur due to failed components, rocket glitches or grievous errors. Evidently this can cause the probes to crash into the Martian surface or to miss the planet completely. 

The skill and precision required for this mission is colossal. It takes 1000’s of people and years of hard to work to achieve such an incredible project.

The current design of the Perseverance rover was based off the previous Mars rover, Curiosity. This saved NASA money and mitigated potential risks, as they were able to use the successful designs from the previous rover and then develop the overall design further for the new model.

The ‘Perseverance’ will characterise the planet’s geology and past climate and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and sediment. This rover will be the first to produce images in colour! 

This rover is making history!

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter

Onboard the Perseverance, the Ingenuity will attempt the first power-controlled flight on another planet. 

With Mars having 1% of the earth’s atmosphere, 1/3 of the gravity and temperatures reaching a freezing -90°C, the possibility of flying was low. However, with in-depth engineering solutions applied, the helicopter will be light, with rotor blades that are much larger and spin much faster than what would be required for a helicopter of Ingenuity’s mass on Earth.

With the odds stacked against them, NASA defied the odds and were able to successfully land the rover and will soon be attempting the first controlled flight in Spring 2021. But how do they control the helicopter from earth? Well,

  • The robot must make some of its own decisions based on parameters set by engineers on earth, as the communication is slow across interplanetary distances.
  • With extensive testing the rover has been designed to withstand the harshest of temperatures, fly in an ultra-thin atmosphere and potentially think for itself. 

What an incredible frontier for engineering. This robot has great design maybe even phenomenal design. As humans, I don’t think we can even understand the complexity of engineering required to actually send a robot 224.3 million km! It’s incomprehensible. 

In 1969, when my Dad was born, it was the first moon landing where Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. On 18th Feb 2021, my Dad’s 52nd birthday, the most sophisticated engineered robot landed on Mars. Who knows what we will be able to achieve in the next 50 years? My hopes are high!

3rd March 2021.

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