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Perseverance is the most advanced robot to enjoy the rarefied atmosphere of the Red Planet. Besides housing a sophisticated suite of high-tech tools, the latest Mars rover is so agile, it could easily power-up casino games, record 3D video and report back to Mission Control… at the same time!
Along with Curiosity and the InSight lander, Perseverance is the third machine to successfully land on Mars. As with its predecessors, the NASA designed and developed rover is equipped with a vast array of tools, cameras and spectrometers. It also features a power pack capable of firing up the equivalent of Springbok Casino x 10,000 plus all the casino games put together!
The vehicle, which is the size of an around-town motor car, is programmed to carry out key tasks – collect and analyse samples of the Martian surface, record the weather and search for evidence of past life. As can be expected from NASA or, to be more precise, the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, every aspect of the mission was precisely planned and executed.
Here is what the Mars 2020 Mission involved:
Getting the rover to its end-destination was clearly a mind-blowing feat. Factor in the touchdown involving a supersonic parachute, self-ejecting heat shield and a sky crane that lowered the rover to the surface and the Martian mission is enough to confound even the brightest minds.
That is just the entrée. Now to the main course and we all know what that is – the rover itself. Using a gambling analogy, the spacecraft is Springbok Casino and the rover and its high-tech components are the casino games!
The latest addition to the NASA Mars machines is roughly the size of a compact car – 3 metres long, 2.7 metres wide and 2.2 metres tall. It weighs precisely 1,025 kg, which is the approximate weight of the Chevy Spark.
Six cleated aluminium wheels, each fitted with its own motor, are central to the vehicle’s ability to navigate the Martian surface. On the spot 360 degree turns and climb capabilities are enabled by steering motors fitted to the front and back wheels.
How does the Rover get around? It is powered by two batteries charged by electricity generated by the natural radioactive decay of plutonium. According to NASA, the Rover uses 4.8 kg of plutonium dioxide and that is apparently enough to power it for its 637-day lifespan.
The system produces 110 watts at launch, which is less than a computer’s average hourly consumption. What that of course means is it is cheaper and more energy efficient for the rover to explore Mars than it is for you and I to play Springbok Casino games – but there is no contest when it comes to the potential real money rewards!
What is arguably more impressive than the body architecture and power pack is the array of smart equipment and tools integrated into the build. Here is a snapshot of what a Martian might find when he or she stumbles across the Perseverance Rover long after it has accomplished its mission.
MEDA, or the Mars Environmental Dynamic Analyser, is designed to measure and record the environmental conditions on Mars – atmospheric pressure, humidity, temperature, winds and the dust particles in the atmosphere. MEDA is a self-contained weather station with a direct line to the Earth.
Moxie is an invaluable little machine that converts carbon dioxide into oxygen. It is one of several experimental components that is basically prepping for the time when astronauts visit the Red Planet.
Not only will they have a steady supply of clean air, the same machine can produce propellant onsite – and that is crucial if humans have any intention of returning back to Earth.
Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals is thankfully shortened to Sherloc. This bit of equipment, together with the Watson camera, is key to finding signs of life on Mars.
Microscopic images are taken of interesting targets on the Martian surface and analysed via spectroscopy, an advanced process that measures chemicals and minerals present in the soil and rock by their mass-to-change ratio.
In addition to a subsurface radar known as Rimfax, the rover has two powerful cameras that are designed to take videos and 3D images of the surroundings.
SuperCam is the big cheese and consists of a camera, spectrometer and laser. It is capable of honing in on targets that are less than 1mm in diameter from a distance of seven metres. That is like trying to find a pencil point on the ground when seated on the head of a male giraffe!
Mastcam is all camera. It has the capabilities to zoom into distant targets and take HD video and 3D images of in full panoramic colour. It is a bit like the awesome technology that delivers high resolution animated casino games directly to your digital device via the Springbok Casino gambling platform!
A flexible 2.1-metre-long robotic arm houses a host of tools including a large drill, ground contact sensor, gaseous dust removal tool, an x-ray spectrometer known as PIXL and the awesomely named Sherloc and Watson.
The arm and its moving parts are sufficiently dexterous to insert samples collected from the surface into small containers. These containers will be left on Mars until the next NASA mission when they will be collected and taken back to Earth for more in-depth analysis!
That is just a sample of the kind of instruments and gear that are being used by the Perseverance Rover to scour the vast expanses of the Jezero Crater. The 500-metre-deep crater was once filled with water. Where there is water, there is life… albeit billions of Earth years ago!
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