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US to launch Perseverance Mars Mission


US to launch Perseverance Mars Mission

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Photo: REUTERS/Steve Nesius

The US will launch its “Perseverance” Mars 2020 rover today. Perseverance is the most technologically advanced and ambitious mission this year, following earlier launches by China and the UAE.

Today’s launch of the nuclear-powered Perseverance robotic rover follows the successful and ongoing 2012 Curiosity Mars exploration mission. As key components of the US’s long-term space exploration program, these missions are designed to achieve four objectives: explore the possibility of life on Mars, characterise its geography, determine the planet’s climate and lay the groundwork for human exploration. Perseverance carries instruments to generate onsite oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, an unmanned autonomous helicopter for long-range exploration and a sample collector for a future 2031 retrieval mission with European support.

Programs like Perseverance exist to lay the groundwork for future Mars mission planning, but there has been a recent shift in US space policy to support the “Artemis” manned lunar program. The US has prioritised the exploration and development of lunar resources in partnership with Canada, Japan, the EU and Australia, with the ultimate goal of demonstrating Western technological dominance in space. Nevertheless, if today’s launch is successful, Perseverance will accomplish a foundational part of that goal while setting the stage for future cooperation between the US and its technology partners.

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