Space news of the day: NASA’s Perseverance rover (formerly Mars 2020) will launch at 7:50 am EDT tomorrow morning on its mission to Mars. (It was originally supposed to be July 17, but it was delayed due to equipment problems.)
I wrote about this mission in January when they were naming it with a public contest of student submissions. The name Perseverance was chosen for the rover, and I was pleased to learn that my personal choice, Ingenuity, was chosen for the helicopter drone that’s riding along.
And can I just reiterate: how crazy is it that we’re sending a helicopter to Mars? For one thing, I’m pretty sure this is the first powered flight ever outside Earth, and for another, this is Mars we’re talking about–a planet where the air is so thin that it’s like being
100,000 feet 80,000 feet up (24 km) on Earth. (I forgot to account for Mars’s lower gravity in my previous post.) Meanwhile, the world record for a helicopter flight on Earth is only 42,500 feet (13 km).
Let me put that more clearly: we’re trying something on Mars that we haven’t even accomplished on Earth yet!
Anyway, live coverage of the launch begins at 7:00 am tomorrow morning on NASA TV. Be sure to check it out.
*Disclosure: I am a postdoc at NASA. All opinions expressed are my own.