About seven months after taking off, NASA’s vehicle, Perseverance, the largest and most advanced ever sent to the Red Planet, is to land on Mars, at Jezero Crater, the most dangerous site ever attempted. Landing will take place this Thursday at 9:55 p.m. (French time).
The “March 2020” mission took off at the end of July from Florida. Built at the legendary Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the American Space Agency, Perseverance weighs a ton, is equipped with a robotic arm of more than 2 m, 19 cameras and, for the first time, two microphones. If it arrives intact, it will be only the 5th rover to make the trip since 1997.
“Mars 2020” is the first mission with the explicit aim of proving that life existed there. Perseverance, which moves three times faster than the previous rovers, will have to cover, for several years, more than twenty kilometers through different environments: the delta formed by a river which then flowed into the lake, then what could be its shore, and, finally, climb the edges of the crater.
At each location, samples – up to thirty in total – will be taken, which will have to be analyzed by the most efficient laboratories on Earth to distinguish, perhaps, the microscopic traces of ancient organisms.
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