Mars 2020

Mars 2020 is a Mars rover mission forming part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program that includes the rover Perseverance and the small robotic helicopter Ingenuity. Mars 2020 was launched from Earth on an Atlas V launch vehicle at 11:50:00 UTC on 30 July 2020, and confirmation of touch down in Jezero crater on Mars was received at 20:55 UTC on 18 February 2021. As of 4 March 2021, Perseverance has been on Mars for 13 sols (14 total days; 14 days).

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. 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 on 4 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 19 cameras and two microphones, allowing for audio recording of the Martian environment.

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) and China (the Tianwen-1 mission on 23 July, with an orbiter, lander, and rover).


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.

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.

Picture of the Perseverance Rover at JPL
The Perseverance rover at JPL near Pasadena, California

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 (O
) from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO

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 weather, 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 two-stage, 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 two-stage, 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.


Cruise stage and EDLS

Animation of Mars 2020's trajectory from 30 July 2020 to 20 February 2021
  •   Mars 2020
  •   Sun
  •   Earth
  •   Mars

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-kilogram (1,268 lb) aeroshell descent vehicle + 440-kilogram (970 lb) heat shield; and the 1,070-kilogram (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-meter-wide (71 ft), 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.

Perseverance rover

Spacecraft of Mars 2020
Perseverance will carry seven scientific instruments across the Martian surface.
Ingenuity will test the first powered flight on another planet, one with a much thinner atmosphere.
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.

A 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.

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. 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.

The Norwegian-developed radar RIMFAX is one of the seven instruments that have been placed on board. The radar has been developed together with FFI (Norwegian Defence Research Establishment), the Norwegian Space Center, and a number of Norwegian companies. Space has also been found for the first time for an unmanned helicopter, which will be controlled by NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)-trained civil engineer Håvard Fjær Grip and his team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Los Angeles

Ingenuity helicopter

Ingenuity is a robotic helicopter that will demonstrate the technology for rotorcraft flight in the extremely thin atmosphere of Mars. 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. Each flight will take no more than 90 seconds, at altitudes ranging from 3 to 5 meters (10 to 16 ft) off the ground, but it could potentially cover a maximum distance of about 50 m (160 ft) per flight. It will use autonomous control and communicate with Perseverance directly after each landing. If it works as expected, it will achieve the first powered flight on another planet, and NASA will be able to build on the design for future Mars missions.


The Jezero crater delta on Mars, where the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter landed. Clays are visible as green in this false color CRISM / CTX image.

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. 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". The sediments in the delta likely include carbonates and hydrated silica, known to preserve microscopic fossils on Earth for billions of years. 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, Mawrth Vallis, Northeastern Syrtis Major Planum, Nili Fossae, and Southwestern Melas Chasma.

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

Mars 2020 launching from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, at 11:50 UTC on 30 July 2020

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 during which it will spend a few months to find a suitable site for its own Mars lander.

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)

Diagram of the various stages of the EDL process for Perseverance

Prior to landing, the Science Team from another NASA mission, 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 parachutes from the upper shield to slow the descent to a controlled speed. With the craft moving under 320 km/h (200 mph) and about 19 km (12 mi) from the surface, the rover and skycrane assembly detached from the upper shield, and rocket propulsion jets on the skycrane controlled the remaining descent to the planet. As the skycrane moved closer to the surface, it lowered Perserevance via cables until it confirmed touchdown, detacted the cables, and flew a distance away to avoid damaging the rover.

Perseverance landing on Mars, 18 February 2021
Combined video footage of Perseverance's landing, with the thumbnail showing footage from the rover's camera (top left), the skycrane's camera (bottom left), and external cameras seconds before touchdown.
Perseverance in mid-EDL descent, with its parachute opened, as captured by HiRISE aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Locations of the rover and components of the EDL craft after landing. The rover is highlighted at the bottom-center, the parachute & back shell on the far left, the descent stage to the mid-left, and the heat shield to the far right.
Perseverance recording of the ambient noise on Mars, modified to remove the background sounds of the rover

Perseverance successfully landed on the surface of Mars with help of the skycrane 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 is 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.

First image taken by the rover after its successful landing
Second Perseverance rover image on Mars
First color image from Perseverance rover after landing
Mars - Perseverance rover - Landing Site Panoramic View (18 February 2021)


NASA plans to expend roughly US$2.8 billion in the Mars 2020 mission over 10 years: nearly 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 6th-most expensive robotic planetary mission made by NASA and is cheaper than its predecessor, the Curiosity rover. Perseverance used spare hardware and "build-to print" designs from the Curiosity mission, which helped save "probably tens of millions, if not 100 million dollars" according to Mars 2020 Deputy Chief Engineer Keith Comeaux.

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. 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.

In May 2020, NASA attached a small aluminum plate on Perseverance to commemorate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and pay "tribute to the perseverance of healthcare workers around the world". The plate features the Rod of Asclepius holding planet Earth, with a trajectory line showing the Mars 2020 spacecraft launching from and departing Earth.

NASA scientist Swati Mohan delivered the news of the successful landing.

See also

External links

Further reading
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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.
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Beagle 2
Bradbury Landing
Deep Space 2
Columbia Memorial Station
InSight Landing
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Mars 2020
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Schiaparelli EDM lander
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Uses material from the Wikipedia article Mars 2020, released under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.