NASA has reported over the weekend that the Mars Copter, an incredible bonus feature included with the Perseverance rover mission, has checked in and all systems are nominal! It will be undergoing battery charging sessions over the next several weeks, assessing how it performs in that harsh climate with extreme cold temperatures over night of around -130F. Once it has demonstrated that it can be hearty and hold a charge, it will be released from home base and be on its own! A 30 day mission will then commence, and we might start getting some really incredible in-flight videos from the little Ingenuity copter, which will of course be the first aircraft on another world.
In the meantime, we can be sure that Perseverance will continue to send back more and more findings, supplementing the already rich set of imagery we have gotten in just the first few days!
With the UAE and China reaching Mars this past week, the United States will now be joining the party this week with their latest Mars rover, Perseverance! It plans to arrive in a pretty grand way, so be sure to check out this rendering of the landing process.
Yes, that’s right, they plan to inflate a giant, supersonic parachute, then deploy a jet-powered “sky crane” that will descend to a safe landing spot and hover above the surface while lowering the rover to the ground on a tether (Reuters). That’s a lot of science!
The mission profile is to “seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth”. Be sure to learn more at the official NASA Mars 2020 page!
One can almost tangibly feel the interest and activity surrounding missions to Mars building stronger every day. Public sentiment and commercial support will be at a fever pitch, just in time for SpaceX to bring their Starship system on line in about a year, and then we are going to see some seriously amazing things!
(Image Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC))
Hot on the heels of the UAE mission which arrived earlier this week, the Chinese Tianwen-1 mission has also arrived at the red planet and entered orbit. Meaning “Questions to Heaven”, this mission will further extend our knowledge of our new frontier when the second phase lands a rover on the planet, designed to use ground-penetrating radar to learn more about the geological structure. Meanwhile, the orbiter will continue to study the planet using seven remote sensing devices.
A new Space Race is exactly what our struggling world needs right now. My hope is that we can see a new era of cooperation and scientific competition, from which will arise new technologies, new partnerships and a unity that we are sorely lacking. I am firmly convinced that, as nations continue to mount efforts such as this to study the planet, SpaceX will succeed in delivering the capability to get cargo and shortly there after, crew sent to our new home. Much like the Space Station, where astronauts from different nations come together to work and experience the awe of space travel, national boundaries become meaningless during such endeavors. This is sure to be true on Mars as well, where the urgency of research and survival will outshine petty politics that are then millions of miles away.
After announcing the ambitious project back in 2015, the United Arab Emirates successfully reached the red planet today with their Hope Mars Probe, massively decelerated and entered orbit all according to plan!
This was a wonderful success to see, as it further expands the scope of nations that are embarking upon this new phase of growth and exploration. Dubai and the UAE, more than many other nations in recent history, probably benefits from a frontier mentality that the rest of us can only imagine or read about. They grew in four decades from a small traditional society, based off of fishing and local trade, into a stunning modern metropolis and economic powerhouse, on the back of their good luck being located on top of so much oil. The ruler there, however, is no dummy and knows that the oil gravy train won’t run much longer, so has taken many wise steps to diversify their economy.
This push into science and technology is another of these steps, and will be a benefit to both that region, and to the overall betterment of mankind if they can manage it as they have managed their beautiful cities.
So – congratulations to the UAE team for their successful mission. I can’t wait to see the science that will start to come back from this probe, which will tell us more about the Martian atmosphere on a global scale.
Want to see a cool related video from the successful landing celebration? Check out the entire Burj Khalifa putting on a high-res light show:
Last year, Musk realized that the pace of progress at the Boca Chica facility needed to be stepped up, and instituted 24 hour, round the clock shifts after hiring 252 professionals in 2 days, doubling the workforce. We have now seen the harvest of that concerted effort, and the amazing team there has started to really crank out the Starships.
This week we are treated to the next in a series of awe-inspiring sights, with two of the massive Starship prototypes deployed and ready for their time to shine. SN9 has been champing at the bit for days now, awaiting an increasingly elusive FAA approval for the next test flight, which will hopefully be this week. SN10, in amazingly close proximity to it’s younger sibling, is ready to show us all what it can do as well. Meanwhile, the first Superheavy booster is well under way in the high bay.
Elon Musk, now the richest man in the world, thankfully has the resources to continue and even further improve this pace of development. He seems to be in a terribly hurry. We should all be very interested as to why, and watch very seriously.