History of Mars Exploration, Perseverance

Mankind’s first Mars specimen collection spacecraft has arrived on Mars, the first runner in the “10-year relay space expedition,” which brings Martian soil to Earth.

NASA’s “Perseverance,” a robot rover, arrived safely at the “Jezero” impact port in the northern hemisphere of Mars at 3:55 p.m. Wednesday local time. It has been six and a half months since he left the earth on July 30 last year.
The cumulative flight distance was 470 million kilometers.

All three Mars probes, including Amar of the United Arab Emirates and Amar of China, have arrived on Mars this month as scheduled.

NASA’s Perseverance project team released a picture of the landing immediately after landing, saying, “It was a perfect landing as shown in the picture.”

Perseverance sent us two photos of the surface of Mars taken with cameras attached in front and back.

Perseverance, right after landing ©NASA

U.S. President joe Biden said on his official Twitter account, “I want to congratulate everyone, including crew, who worked hard to make the historic landing of the Perseverance possible. Today, it is proved once again that nothing is impossible with scientific power and U.S. ingenuity.

The Perseverance, a six-wheeled probe weighing 1,050 kilograms, three meters long and 2.2 meters high, is the 15th Mars rover in the U.S. and the fifth one.

There are two main tasks for Perseverance, the same structure as Curiosity, which has been in operation for nine years. It is to find traces of past life and collect soil samples from Mars for the first time in history.

Perseverance clinging to Skycrane ©NASA

The process of landing on Mars, whose atmospheric density is only one-hundredth that of Earth, is called “seven minutes of fear.” It is because the atmospheric friction force, which can reduce the speed of the spacecraft, is low and there is a high risk of ground collisions.

On this day, Perseverance had to put up the curtain and endure the high temperature of 1300 degrees Celsius, slowing down the speed from 20,000 kilometers per hour to walking speed in just a few minutes. For this reason, parachutes, reverse propulsion engines and sky cranes were mobilized.

NASA has also added new technology this time for a safe landing. After continuously taking and analyzing surface photos during the descent, the landing site can be changed to within 600 meters if necessary.

Landing Process ©NASA

The “Seven Minutes of Fear,” which lasted in three stages, began when a descending line (sky crane) with solar panels removed, entered the atmosphere at 8:48 p.m.

After enduring high temperatures for about a minute, the descending line extended its parachute four minutes later, slowing it down to 1,500 kilometers per hour.

Two minutes later, the rear heat shield was removed when it reached 2.1 kilometers above the sky.
From this point on, it slowed down with a reverse propulsion engine and slowed down to 2.7 kilometers per hour. The descending machin(ship) lowered a rover connected to three nylon wires (7.6 meters long) at an altitude of 20 meters.

After confirming the landing of the rover, the descending line cut off the connecting line and flew to safety. The Perseverance had a speed of 2.5 kilometers per hour when it landed.
All these processes were carried out with built-in automated control systems.

Communication between Mars and Earth takes as long as 22 minutes and cannot be controlled in real time by the Earth control station.

Perseverance Landing Site ©NASA

Expectations are high for finding traces of life.

With regard to the discovery of traces of life on Mars, NASA has higher expectations than ever before for this expedition. This is because of the characteristics around the impact port of the Jezero(Slavic word for lake) where Perseverance will operate.

Jezero is the 45-kilometer-wide collision basin at the northwest end of the Equatorial Wisidis Plain. Scientists estimate that it is an impact basin formed by the fall of a large meteorite 3.9 billion years ago. It is located in the Triangle Plain, which is believed to have been formed by the deposits of rivers formed by the heat, dust, and gas jetting from volcanic activities 4.1 billion to 3.7 billion years ago.

Scientists believe that there is a high possibility that there are traces of life in the triangular province, which is fan-shaped in the east direction. If the river flowed at that time, Samgakju would have been a gathering place for organic substances. The truth is that screw scientists have long been anxious to explore here.

However, due to the unevenness and steepness, the ship could not be sent due to the high risk of landing. Thanks to the development of technology, the company achieved its long-cherished wish.

Travel Path ©NASA/JPL

Another place where scientists expect traces of life is the lakeside.

Scientists believe that there is a rock-like lump of carbonate on the edge of an ancient lake that stretches along the edge of the Jezero on a photograph of Mars.
There is evidence of fossilized bacteria-like lifeforms called stromatolites in ancient carbonate rocks on Earth.

Sherlock (SHERLOC) and PIXL (PIXL) play a central role in “Searching for Life” among the seven scientific equipment installed in the Perseverance. Sherlock uses ultraviolet lasers to find organic substances, and Pixle analyzes rocks and soil components.

Perseverance ©NASA/JPL

The Mars specimen collection will be carried to Earth 2031 years later.

Perseverance’s initial activity period is set at one year (based on Mars Day, 687 Earth days).

During the same period, Perseverance travels around the area at a speed of 152 meters per hour and collects Martian soil and stones in cylindrical metal containers.

Full-scale activities will begin in May after the system inspection and commissioning are completed. There are 43 sample collectors.

However, I will leave the five empty.

This is to compare whether or not the container containing the specimen contains pure Martian substances when it is brought to Earth later.

If you search for rocks to collect, extend the robot arm (2.1 meters long) and drill a hole the size of a small flashlight (6 centimeters long by 1.3 centimeters wide) and place the samples in the container.

Each container can hold up to 15g.

The cylindrical container is 15 centimeters long and is made of titanium.
It is coated in white with high light reflectance to prevent deterioration by sunlight.

Once 20 containers are filled, bury them in the ground first and store them.

NASA plans to send another spacecraft to collect the samples in the late 2020s and then bring them to Earth in 2031.

Therefore, NASA and the European Space Agency decided to send two probes to Mars in 2026.

NASA has decided to take charge of the Sample Recovery Lander (SRL) and the European Space Agency will take charge of the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO). The two spacecraft will reach the surface and orbit of Mars in the summer of 2028.

Ingenuity ©NASA/JPL

A helicopter is flown to test the generation of oxygen on Mars air.

Perseverance also performs two special tests on Mars. One is the flight test. At the bottom of the ship, the Ingenuity, a small helicopter weighing 1.8 kilograms, 1.2 meters in wings, and 50 centimeters in height, hangs. Screws move the Perseverance to a flat area and then conduct flight tests. Five attempts in 30 days from mid-March.

The flight test will be conducted by rotating the two wings 2,400 times per minute in opposite directions to generate lift and fly. It is powered by solar cells. “My goal is to fly 5 meters up and 150 meters back and forth for 90 seconds. If successful, the “Ingenuity” will be the first powered flying vehicle that has been flown by humans outside of the Earth.

NASA expects this will pave the way for drone exploration on other celestial bodies in the future. “The goal is to prove that aerodynamics works on Mars as well,” said Tim Canham, head of operations at Cognitive News.

The other is the oxygen generation test. This test uses carbon dioxide, which accounts for 95 percent of Mars’ atmosphere, to produce oxygen. After inhaling the atmosphere of Mars with a device called MOXIE, they plan to conduct experiments to remove dust and pollutants and convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. It is an important test to prepare for future manned Mars exploration.
Conduct 10 experiments to generate 6 to 10 grams of oxygen per hour in different seasons and times.

all-time landing sites for Mars rovers ©NASA

8 trillion won joint project between the U.S. and Europe

In addition, Perseverance has 23 cameras including surface radar (limfax), weather observation equipment (meda), two high-resolution cameras (supercamera and mastcamera Z), and two microphones. One of the two microphones is in the landing system and the other is in the camera. A microphone in the landing system records the landing process. Camera microphones are used to determine if the rover is abnormal. NASA has invested $2.7 billion (3.2 trillion won) in mass 2020.

NASA and the European Space Agency estimate that it will cost about $7 billion (8.5 trillion won) to complete the Mars specimen collection-return project. Currently, U.S. landers Insight and Rover Curiosity are performing missions on Mars.

With the addition of Percybeerance, the Mars rover increased to eight orbiter(US 3, Europe 2, India 1, United Arab Emirates 1, China 1), one lander(USA) and two rovers (USA).

In May, China’s Tianwon 1 (landing ship and rover) will come down to the ground and join.

Mars is geologically alive.
(The meaning of Mars exploration.)

There are already many traces of humanity on Mars. Among them are twin robots, which have overcome many crises and hardships and impressed mankind, and mobile rovers such as the “Curiosity Rover,” which celebrate their birthdays.

However, there is not only a mobile probe on Mars. There are also fixed probes (landers) like Phoenix probes.

a human lander and mobile ship that has ever landed on Mars
©The Planetary Society

The Phoenix fixed probe is NASA’s fixed Mars probe, which landed in the North Pole of Mars, which is rich in water and ice, and was the first to directly collect samples of Mars. After landing, Phoenix began to search for traces of water on Mars and ultimately see if Mars is the right environment for life or microorganisms to live in.

Finally, they succeeded in finding steam by heating frozen soil specimens. Based on Phoenix’s success, NASA selected the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigation, Geody and Heat Transport project as its 12th discovery program. Since the name of the Insight means “surveying the interior of Mars using seismic waves, geodesy, and heat transfer,” the main purpose of the probe was geological exploration of Mars.

The initial launch plan for the Insight Explorer was scheduled for March 2016 but was delayed somewhat due to a defect in the SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) seismograph and was eventually launched in May 2018. The Insight probe, which traveled 484 million kilometers, sent its first signal after landing on Nov. 27, 2018. Landing on Mars is a fairly difficult task consisting of three stages: approach, descent and landing.

First of all, when reaching the top layer of the Martian atmosphere with an altitude of more than 100 kilometers, the speed of the probe should be reduced rapidly. In addition, heat sinks must withstand excessive temperature due to friction with the atmosphere. Next, when the plane reaches 10 km above the sky, it spreads its parachute and slows down, ending its careful landing. After landing, the Insight probe immediately deployed two solar panels to power Mars.

Insight after Mars Landing ©NASA/JPL

The Insight landed on the Elysium Plain near the equator of Mars, but this is one of the flatest places on Mars. The chosen landing site has something to do with the free operation of solar cells because the Insight probe is not a mobile probe.

The choice was made with the utmost consideration of external hazards as well as adequate sunbathing. Since the main purpose is geological exploration of Mars, the Insight is equipped with two cubes: the SEIS seismometer called Mars Cube One (MarCO-AMarCO-B), the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, and the Rotation and Interior.

In addition, the Instrument Deployment Arm is a feature of only the Insight Explorer, but it was installed for the purpose of installing SEIS seismometers and temperature measuring instruments. In particular, the two cubes installed by the robot arm are one of the most important equipment.

The first cube, the SEIS seismometer, is a device capable of sensing earthquakes and vibrations of less than 50 hz, and is designed and manufactured by more than four large national-level laboratories. Just as earthquakes have made it possible to predict the Earth’s interior, Marsquakes are also important information for tracking the interior of Mars. If an earthquake occurs on Mars, the interior of Mars can be predicted by changes in wave motion.

In addition, the heat of the current Mars nucleus can be measured using the second cube (MarCO-B), the temperature measuring device for drilling equipment, and the activity inside Mars can be determined. Measurement of internal temperature also provides important hints for planetary evolution, but it is possible to predict the overall information on Mars and the life of the planet based on the degree of cooling of Mars. It is believed that there was a time when Earth and Mars looked like brother planets.

Mars is also expected to have a thick layer of atmosphere with warm temperatures, but now it looks like a completely different planet, including a very thin atmosphere due to various reasons, such as a weak magnetic field caused by the changed interior. Exploring the veiled interior of Mars and the atmosphere will help us understand the process of forming a terrestrial planet.

Dr. Laurie Grays, head of NASA’s Planetary Science Department, reported in April 2019 that she had captured the first Martian earthquake. Unexpectedly strong earthquake activity on Mars is similar to the moonquakes detected on the Moon during the Apollo mission, but it is not enough to accurately explore the interior of Mars.

As of September 30, 2019, a total of 450 large and small earthquake signals were detected to indicate that Mars is living geologically, but most of them were due to seismic activity inside Mars and the impact of meteorites on Mars. Insight brought new and surprising results.

Dr. Katherine Johnson, one of the deputy managers of the Insight Explorer, reportedly discovered a magnetic field on Mars that was about 10 times stronger than that observed by satellite. The metals inside Mars began to cool long ago, but this eventually led to Mars’ weak magnetic field and the absence of an atmosphere to protect it from solar winds. For this reason, these discoveries are predicted to be local, implying that there are magnetized ancient rocks underground near where the Insight Explorer landed.

In June 2020, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package of the Insight Explorer finally began digging the land. The device, nicknamed the Mole, is designed to be drilled up to five meters underground. Since it contains heat sensing sensors, it can measure energy and temperature from inside Mars while digging into the ground.

However, the mole failed to enter the ground despite several attempts so far, and scientists and engineers who were thinking of other alternatives decided to use the robot’s arm to push the mole equipment into the ground. So the mole started digging land on Mars on June 9, 2020.

The Insight Explorer is scheduled to finish its mission this year, but there is still a lot left to do. There are still many mountains to cross. As winter approaches the northern hemisphere of Hwaseong, dust storm season is expected to begin soon. This means the Insight probe could face sandstorms and other crises experienced by the twin rovers. It also means difficulties may arise in mole drilling activities.

Furthermore, since the Insight Explorer is a fixed probe, it is feared that it will be able to overcome the crisis completely. Mars is a perfect place to learn how terrestrial planets were born and evolved. We hope that the mole will be active in solving many mysteries.

The previous electric vehicle and the Mars exploration content are all related to Elon Musk’s dream.
As an engineer, I had a lot of fun writing. The preliminary research for writing was a great inspiration for me. I hope that those who read this text will take a lot of inspiration with themselves.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the text or would like to conduct additional investigations.

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