Atlas launch vehicle with US Mars explorer launched

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An Atlas launch vehicle was launched from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in Florida on Thursday to send the US Mars explorer “Perseverance” to the Red Planet, as was directly reported on NASA TV.


At 1:50 pm Belgian time, exactly as planned, a powerful Atlas-V launcher left for launch company United Launch Alliance. About fifty to sixty minutes later, the Perseverance, the youngest Mars robot from the American space agency NASA, must be released. The landing in the Jezero crater is planned for February 18.

The nearly a ton Perseverance has seven scientific instruments, two microphones, 23 cameras, a laser and even a drone helicopter, Ingenuity. It has to fly around five times, each several hundred meters further. The helicopter must, among other things, deal with the low air pressure. The air pressure on the surface of Mars is comparable to the pressure at an altitude of 30 kilometers on Earth. Earthly helicopters cannot fly that high. If the technology works on the Red Planet, helicopters can help to explore an alien destination much faster.

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New missions

In particular, the six-wheel Perseverance must look for traces of past microbiological life. In addition, the robot jeep must investigate the climate and geology of our neighboring planet, by taking samples of stones and dust.

A drill must collect dozens of soil samples in tubes. They are left on the surface. In 2028, a European explorer must arrive to collect the tubes from the Perseverance. That collector must then take off and enter orbit around Mars. There he must transfer the samples to another European spaceship, which is due to arrive on Earth with the Martian material in 2031. Scientists can then conduct further research in laboratories.

The mission should also allow testing new technology for future unmanned and manned missions to Mars.

Vinciane Debaillie, an ULB scientist, is one of five researchers appointed by the European Space Agency to work with the $ 2.7 billion US Mars mission. Her work includes controlling the Perseverance, documenting observations and handling data. It is also part of the scientific committee.

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Corona on the march

Thanks to the Perseverance, scientists also want to learn more about the origin of the universe.

The jeep carries a placard that pays tribute to the emergency services and health workers affected by the corona pandemic, NASA says.

It is the eleventh launch to Mars with an Atlas of which the Belgian Karel Bossart is the “father”.

The United Arab Emirates and China have also launched a Mars explorer in recent weeks.

Roughly half to sixty percent of all Mars landing attempts have failed. The previous US Mars explorer who landed safely was the Curiosity about eight years ago.

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