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NASA's Perseverance rover landed at the Jezero crater, on Mars, at 17:57 pm (Brasília time) this Thursday (18), an event that was broadcast live by the Olhar Digital.

It was a perfect landing, just 2 minutes behind schedule, after a journey of more than six months and 200 million kilometers that took the rover from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the Jezero Crater on Mars.

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See how it was:

Minutes after landing, the rover used its front and rear cameras to send images of the surrounding Martian terrain. The black-and-white images were posted on the rover's Twitter profile, @NASAPersevere:

Many other images, in color and of the exact moment of landing, should be released soon. But the landing is only the first part of a long exploration schedule.

Once on the surface of Mars, the rover will have a long list of tasks to do, from initial testing of all its systems to the first scientific missions. Next, learn a little more about the agenda for the first 100 days of Perseverance on Mars.

1st to 10th day of Perseverance on Mars

As soon as it landed, Perseverance fired pyrotechnic devices to eject the covers that protect the lenses of its 23 cameras and photograph the place where it landed using its front and rear cameras. The images were sent to Earth via the satellites Mars Odyssey, which has orbited the planet since 2001, and Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which arrived in 2016.

According to Jennifer Trosper, deputy project manager for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, after that the rover will “take a nap” until the next day to recharge its batteries.

The illustration shows what the Perseverance rover should be touching Mars soil.
Illustration of what the moment should look like when Persevrance touches the ground of Mars. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Over the next few days, the team on Earth will “determine the vehicle's basic functions, such as power, heating and communications. If any of these functions are not working, the vehicle can be put at risk very quickly, ”says Trosper.

Perseverance will also observe the position of the Sun in the sky to determine where is the Earth and establish direct communication, and then check other instruments and systems. All of this while sending us more photos of your surroundings.

This entire process should take five days. Over the next five days, the rover will transition from the software used for landing to what will be used to operate on the surface of Mars. He will also test the robotic arm that will be used to collect samples and take his first “steps” to test his six wheels.

10th to 60th day

Within Perseverance is the Ingenuity, a small helicopter with four rotors that will try to make the first flight in the skies of another planet, in a technological demonstration that could open the way for the use of drones for reconnaissance of terrain in future human missions.

The Ingenuity flight will require the team to find a flat spot for takeoff, up to 1 kilometer from where the rover landed. With the location determined, Perseverance will go there and download Ingenuity, which is stored in your “belly”. The helicopter will be carefully lowered to the ground and will receive a final charge of energy before being disconnected from the rover.

Illustration shows the Ingenuity drone flying over the Martian landscape.
Illustration of what an Ingenuity flight on Mars will look like. Image: Nasa / JPL-Caltech

According to Joshua Ravich, director of mechanical engineering for the drone at JPL, although the “landing” process takes only a few minutes, the team responsible will proceed with “extreme caution”, taking multiple photos of each step, which will make the entire operation lasts “about a week”.

From there, the team responsible for Ingenuity will have 30 days to carry out up to five flights, each lasting 90 seconds. The former will be short and at low altitude, but it will gradually fly farther and higher. Ravich says that "the fifth flight can be something as complex as taking off, flying a certain distance, autonomously choosing a landing place and landing there".

It will be possible to make only one flight per day, and the helicopter will use painéis solares to recharge your batteries between flights. Perseverance will be watching everything, taking pictures and maybe videos of each attempt.

60th to 100th day

There is flexibility in the schedule for all these activities, and they can end on the 60th day or last up to the 100th, at the most. From then on, the first phase of the Perseverance mission ends and its control will be passed on to the scientific team, which will have already chosen a location to start the exploration.

“Depending on where we land, we’ll have a menu of locations to choose from,” says Katie Stack Morgan, deputy scientist for the Perseverance project. “What I hope to be doing is planning a scientific investigation of the bottom of the crater before our investigation of the river delta, because the crater may have volcanic rock, which is great for getting absolute dates”, something that would serve as a basis for dating of future samples collected by the rover.

The illustration shows what the Jezero crater looked like billions of years ago. Place was a lake, where a river flowed
NASA believes that billions of years ago the Jezero crater was a lake where a river opened, as shown in the illustration above. Image: Nasa / JPL-Caltech

In the following days, Perseverance will collect the first samples of Martian soil, storing them in metal tubes the size of a cigar that can be collected for future missions and brought to Earth. Tools like Moxie, which will generate oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; Meda, who will analyze the climate dynamics; and Rimfax, which will look for frozen water underground, will be ready to go online.

From there, the most important mission begins: the search for evidence that Mars, in the past, has already harbored life forms. What will Perseverance find?

Source: Scientic American