Mars 2020

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Mars 2020
Phase : E / Status : active

Selfie of the Rover Perseverance with the Ingenuity helicopter drone (near the Van Zyl survey on April 7, 2021)
Type: Space probe ( rover )
Country: United StatesUnited States United States
Organization: NASA and JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
COSPAR designation : 2020-052A
Mission dates
Start date: July 30, 2020, 11:50 UTC
Starting place: Space Launch Complex 41
( Cape Canaveral Air Force Station )
Launcher: Atlas V 541 (AV-088)
Landing place: Jezero crater
Mars Science Laboratory
July 30, 2020 begin
February 18, 2021 Landing on Mars
April 19, 2021 First flight of the Ingenuity helicopter drone

Mars 2020 is NASA's fifth Mars rover and first helicopter mission . By means of an Atlas V - launcher was on July 30, 2020 from Cape Canaveral , a lander with the rover Perseverance ( German , perseverance endurance ) with its small helicopter Ingenuity ( ingenuity started) to 480 million km long flight to Mars. The probe landed on February 18, 2021 in the northern hemisphere of Mars in the Jezero crater .  

Mission objectives, planning and process up to the start

The mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program . Perseverance is to examine Martian rocks more closely with regard to biosignatures , geological processes and the geological history of the planet in order to gain insights into possible life on Mars, among other things . The $ 2.5 billion rover will also study the planet's climate. The mission also serves to prepare a manned flight to Mars . The rover will test convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and analyze these results. Mars 2020 was announced on December 4, 2012 during the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco. Scientific instruments for the rover were selected in an open competition after the mission objectives were announced. After over 60 suggestions had been received, NASA announced the landing of the rover in July 2014, which was to be designed similar to the Curiosity rover .

A former 3.5 billion year old river delta in the Jezero crater was chosen as the landing site , which is located in the Syrtis Major Planitia at the coordinates 18 ° 51 ′ 18 ″  N , 77 ° 31 ′ 8.4 ″  E and about 3 , 9 to 3.5 billion years ago was a 250 m deep lake. Old hydrothermal springs in the northeast of the Syrtis Major plateau and at the Columbia Hills were considered as alternatives .

In order for the Perseverance to get to Mars as sterile as possible - otherwise the rover could detect traces of life on Mars that it brought there itself - the assembly of the Perseverance was carried out in a clean room inside another clean room at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory .

As a carrier rocket for the launch of the spacecraft was Atlas V 541 selected. The rocket is 58 meters high and is adjacent to the first stage of four solid - boosters and a Centaur upperstage. The start window for the mission was set after a postponement to the period from July 30th to August 15th, 2020; The launch site was launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida .

a In this capsule - almost identical to the Mars Science Laboratory - Perseverance and Ingenuity passed through the atmosphere of Mars after being separated from the Mars flight module.
Structure of the space probe

1: Cruise module 6: Parachute housing 2: Capsule
3: Descent stage 4: Rover (Perseverance) 5: Heat shield

Structure and technology of the space probe compared to the Mars mission MSL

The structure of the space probe and the technology of the cruise flight and landing systems of Mars 2020 differ significantly from that of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) , especially with regard to the different rovers and the further developed descent stage .

The control and control technology of Mars 2020 has been improved compared to the Mars mission MSL in that on the one hand the landing stage of Mars 2020 has been supplemented with the function of avoiding obstacles and on the other hand the deviation of the self-localization of the descent stage has been reduced from 3 km to around 40 meters has been.

Mission progress

Flight to Mars

On the day of landing on Mars, the probe had covered a distance of 470 million kilometers in relation to the sun. The distance between Earth and Mars varies between 56 million kilometers and 401 million kilometers. The probe traveled a greater distance than the maximum distance between Earth and the slower orbiting Mars - the launch window is a compromise between flight time and propulsion energy. About 20 hours before landing, the travel speed (relative to the sun) of the probe was about 76,820 kilometers per hour .

Landing on Mars

Phases of landing on Mars
Perseverance Landing Skycrane.jpg
Perseverance in the final landing phase, photo from SkyCrane
Video recording from on-board camera: video of Mars landing (audio in English )

The approach and landing on February 18, 2021 took place fully automatically due to the signal propagation time of around 11 minutes between Earth and Mars, as in previous missions ; the instructions for this were programmed into the probe and the rover. The descent stage was able to recognize obstacles and, if necessary, to change the landing site with sideways movements by up to 300 meters.

During and after the landing, which was confirmed at 8:55 p.m. ( UTC ) at JPL's Mission Control Center , the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft , which is connected to Earth via the Deep Space Network , flew over the landing site and served as a relay station . A few hours after landing, the Exomars Trace Gas Orbiter flew over the landing site and assumed the role of relay station. The Maven space probe , for its part, changed its course before Mars landed in 2020 in order to document the process with its instruments. The Mars Express monitors the local weather conditions during the mission.

First sound recordings from Mars

Listen to sound recordings from Mars for the first time on February 22, 2021 ? / i published. Audio file / audio sample

First helicopter flight

Ingenuity's first flight on April 19, 2021

On April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity helicopter drone flew for the first time on Mars for 39 seconds and reached an altitude of three meters. This was the first time that a helicopter flew on a strange celestial body.

First conversion of carbon dioxide to oxygen

On April 20, 2021, oxygen was obtained for the first time in the history of space travel on an alien planet . In this first test on Mars, the MOXIE instrument produced 5.4 grams of oxygen from carbon dioxide within an hour . An astronaut could use it to breathe for ten minutes.

Instruments of perseverance

In addition to 23 cameras, the rover is also equipped with two microphones , with which sounds from Mars could be transmitted for the first time. Although two previous NASA missions already had sound transducers on board, the landing of Mars Polar Lander failed and the microphone built into the camera of the Phoenix descent module was never activated.

Animation to illustrate the sample intake of the rover.
(Duration: 2:20 min)
Film showing the various phases of the assembly and testing of the spacecraft. (Duration: 39:20 min)


Mastcam-Z is a panoramic and stereoscopic camera system with a zoom lens . The instrument will also determine the minerals on the surface of Mars and help with navigation. The instrument was developed by James Bell's group at Arizona State University in Tempe . It was built by Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego , California, among others . In addition to other US universities, the German Aerospace Center and the Austrian Joanneum Research GmbH were or are involved in the project.


SuperCam is an assembly of four spectrometers that are supposed to carry out analyzes of rocks and soils using laser-induced plasma spectroscopy . The Supercam can be used to search for organic compounds in stones and regoliths . It was developed to identify the biosignatures of microbes on Mars.

The instrument was mainly developed by a team from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos , New Mexico , but the French space agency (L'Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie [CNES / IRAP]) and research institutions at the universities of Hawaii and the Spanish University of Valladolid .

Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL)

The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) is an X-ray fluorescence spectroscope that is also equipped with a high-resolution camera and is intended to determine the elementary composition of the Martian surface. PIXL was developed by Abigail Allwood's team at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena , California.

Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC)

Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (Sherloc) is a spectrometer with ultraviolet - lasers the exact mineralogy and organic compounds to determine. SHERLOC is the first ultraviolet Raman spectrometer to fly to Mars. It was realized by Luther Beegle's team at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE)

The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment ( MOXIE ) is an instrument for researching a technology that electrochemically converts the carbon dioxide present in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen and carbon monoxide. After an analysis of its purity, the oxygen obtained is to be released back into the Martian atmosphere with the carbon monoxide. MOXIE was designed by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge , Massachusetts .

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA)

The Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) consists of a series of sensors designed to record the optical properties of dust and six atmospheric parameters. The abbreviation MEDA also stands for ¡me da! (Spanish for "Give me!"), in the sense of: "Give me information about weather, dust, radiation!" The instruments were designed by a team from the Spanish Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial .

On Mars, MEDA is to measure the size and quantity of dust particles as well as wind direction , wind speed , air pressure , relative humidity , air temperature , soil temperature , certain bandwidths of ultraviolet radiation , visible radiation and infrared radiation. The sensors belonging to MEDA are located on the top and front of the rover, as well as on the upper rear of the remote sensing mast and in its interior. They have a total weight of 5.5 kilograms.

The sensors of the MEDA

The sensors belonging to MEDA on the Mars rover.
  • RDS - radiation and dust sensor : Dimensions: 13.2 cm × 11.5 cm × 12.5 cm; on top of the rover, consisting of eight upward-facing photodiodes
  • HS - humidity sensor : Dimensions: 5.5 cm × 2.5 cm × 7.25 cm; mounted on the remote sensing mast within a protective cylinder and surrounded by a dust filter
  • TIRS - thermal infrared sensor (infrared sensor): Dimensions: 6.25 cm × 5.25 cm × 5.75 cm; on Remote Sensing mast mounted aligned on the front right side of the rover; consisting of three upward and two downward thermopiles
  • ATS1-ATS5 - air temperature sensor 1-5 (air temperature sensors 1-5): Dimensions: 5.75 cm × 2.75 cm × 6.75 cm; three around the remote sensing mast , two more attached to the main part of the rover
  • WS1 – WS2 - wind sensor 1–2 (wind sensors 1–2): Dimensions: wind sensor 1: 5 cm × 17 cm and wind sensor 2: 25 cm × 40 cm; attached to the remote sensing mast
  • PS - pressure sensor (pressure sensor and control unit): Dimensions: 14 cm × 14 cm × 13 cm; mounted inside the rover with a pipe leading to the outside.

The Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX)

The Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX) is a ground penetrating radar that acquires a vertical profile every 10 cm of travel distance and thus provides a two-dimensional image of the subsurface during the journey, depending on the nature of the ground up to a depth of over 10 m. Based on the reflected and scattered radio waves, it analyzes the geological structure and density of the soil in order to, among other things, determine in and below the sediment. To be able to recognize rocks, meteorites or water ice and brine - the landing area is an impact crater, which is subsequently formed over by water and covered by sediment. The device works with radio waves with a frequency between 120 MHz and 1.2 GHz in order to have a high penetration depth at low frequencies and a high vertical resolution at high frequencies, depending on the nature of the ground. The instrument was developed by the Norwegian Defense Research Institute (Forsvarets forskningsinstitutt) around Svein-Erik Hamran. RIMFAX is the first ground penetrating radar to work directly on Mars and can provide more detailed data than was previously possible from the mass satellite. The name goes back to Hrímfaxi, a horse in Norse mythology.

Helicopter drone

KSC-20200310-PH-CSH01 0040.jpg
Functional test of the Ingenuity helicopter drone
Mars Helicopter INGENUITIY model in scale 1 to 1 in the helicopter museum Bückeburg.jpg
Ingenuity model in the helicopter museum in Bückeburg
Ingenuity gives it's blades a test spin.gif
Test the rotors of Ingenuity on Mars, April 9 2021st

As part of the Mars 2020 mission, a helicopter drone was used for the first time on another celestial body, the Mars Helicopter , also known as Ingenuity . Except for cameras, Ingenuity wears no equipment. The drone is primarily used as a test model for future flying objects on Mars.

Ingenuity is operated with accumulators charged from solar cells and was built from both specially developed and off-the-shelf components. Its weight on Earth is 1.8 kilograms (about 18 Newtons), which is 6.8 Newtons on Mars. The fact that only about a third of the Earth's gravity acts on the helicopter on the surface of Mars makes the ascent easier. The gas atmosphere of Mars , which is only about a hundredth as dense as the Earth's atmosphere , on the other hand, makes it more difficult for the rotors of the helicopter to generate lift. To be able to take off, two coaxially mounted , counter-rotating 1.2 m long CFRP rotor blades rotate at 2400 revolutions per minute.

The six lithium-ion batteries were checked and fully charged in August 2020 during the flight to Mars in an eight-hour process. The previously low charge level of 35% should ensure optimal battery life in view of the long flight time.

During the successful maiden flight of the drone on April 19, 2021, it reached the planned altitude of 3 m and held it for 39 s. A camera, laser altimeter and inertial sensors are used for this. The control software is open source and the drone's operating system is Linux .

As a tribute to the first motor flight of the Wright Flyer on Earth Scientists have the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars drone from a cable with one of its solar panels of a small piece of the blade from the plane of the Wright brothers fastened from the 1903rd It is the second piece of the Wright Flyer to fly into space . A similar mini-piece of the wing was taken to the moon during the Apollo missions .

Possible follow-up missions

Soil sample container c

There are plans to bring the Martian rock extracted by the rover to Earth with a subsequent Mars sample return mission. For this purpose, several rock samples weighing about 15 g are to be hermetically sealed in containers (43 containers are on board). These should then be collected in the rover and placed in convenient locations on the surface of Mars. In this way, the sample containers are still accessible for later collection even in the event of a breakdown of the rover. They could be returned to Earth on subsequent missions.

Since the rover is also testing methods of extracting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, searching for other resources (e.g. underground water) and examining environmental conditions such as weather and dust, the mission is part of the preparation for a manned flight to Mars .

c Container for the collected soil samples. They are left in the metal tubes at the point of sampling and are to be collected by the Fetch Rover during a later Mars Sample Return .


  • At the rear of Perseverance an aluminum plate was mounted, on which Earth and Mars are connected by rays of the sun. In the rays of the sun there are the words “explore as one” in Morse code , an allusion to the Pioneer plaques and Voyager Golden Records . Above this engraving are three fingernail-sized silicon chips and to the right of them a square bracket with “10,932,295 Explorers”. As part of a “Send Your Name to Mars” campaign (as with Curiosity before), NASA made it possible for interested people to have their names immortalized on it. A total of 10,932,295 names were submitted and electron beam engraved during the registration period . In addition, 155 essays that made it to the finals of the “Name the Rover” competition made it onto the microchips .
  • As usual, the parachute of the descent stage had red and white stripes to make it easier to see whether it was fully deployed and not twisted. On Mars 2020, however, the stripes are arranged irregularly. This was defined and decrypted as a hidden binary code - the red stripes correspond to "1" and the white stripes to "0". Using the ASCII code , the words “dare mighty things”, the motto of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), can be interpreted from the three inner rings . The outer fourth ring gives the geographic coordinates of the JPL in La Cañada Flintridge ( 34 ° 11 ′ 58 ″  N , 118 ° 10 ′ 31 ″  W ).
  • On the left side of Perseverance there is an 8 × 13 cm aluminum plate with a staff of Aesculapius on it that holds the earth. NASA is honoring the health care workers and their work during the corona pandemic .
  • On the top of Perseverance is a "family portrait" of all previous Mars rovers ( Sojourner , Spirit , Opportunity , Curiosity ) as well as Perseverance and Ingenuity themselves.
  • A polycarbonate coin is also used to calibrate the WATSON camera . On it is the address of the famous detective: "221bBaker". The coin is also a geocoin for geocachers .
  • Attached to a wire, the Mars helicopter carries a small piece of fabric from the Wright brothers' aircraft , who made the first powered flight on earth in 1903.


1 Assembling the cruise flight module that controls the probe during the route from Earth to Mars.
2 Descent stage with which the rover and the helicopter should land safely on the surface of Mars.
3 Checking the center of gravity to determine when the force is evenly distributed on the descent step.
4th View from above of the descent stage with the Mars rover Perseverance below.
5 Space probe for the phase of descent and landing on the surface of Mars - view from below of the rover and the cruise flight module. The helicopter drone can be seen on the underside of the rover.
6th Working on the solar panels on the cruise flight module - "hung upside down" - in a test chamber.
7th Technical and scientific instruments of the Mars 2020 mission in English.
8th The cooler to which the radionuclide battery (MMRTG - Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) is attached is visible in the middle-right in the picture.
9 23 cameras in total - 9 cameras for technical use, 7 cameras for scientific use and 7 cameras for navigation for entry, descent and landing on Mars.
10 The Perseverance's Supercam consists of a camera and two lasers and four spectrometers to carry out analyzes of rocks and soils using laser-induced plasma spectroscopy and to detect organic compounds in order to identify the biosignatures of microbes on Mars.
11 SHERLOC - Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals - a Raman spectrometer for the precise analysis of the mineralogy and the chemical compounds of the samples.
360 ° panorama of the landing area

See also

Web links

Commons : Mars 2020  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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