Perseverance’s science goals are:
- Sample caching for return to Earth
- Prepare for crewed missions
Investigations will seek to characterize the processes that formed and modified the geologic record in ancient terrains selected for their geologic diversity and astrobiological value, in particular their habitability (i.e. their ability to support or once have supported life).
The goal here is to determine the habitability of the explored environment. Analysis of soil and rock samples will enable scientists to identify materials with high potential for preserving biomarkers or biosignatures, where they will look for proof of past life.
Certain instruments will serve to identify sites for sampling. Samples will then be cached into sealed containers and stored on the surface for recovery by future missions and their return to Earth under the Mars Sample Return (MSR) programme. Two launches are planned around 2026 to bring back samples to Earth in 2031 at the earliest.
Prepare for crewed missions
To prepare for crewed missions that will land on Mars, the Mars 2020 mission will:
- Conduct a first demonstration of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) technologies to enable oxygen production from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere.
- Characterize atmospheric dust size and morphology to understand its effects on instruments, materials and human health.
- Acquire surface weather measurements to validate global atmospheric models.
The Mars 2020 mission should land on Mars in February 2021. It is planned to operate the rover for at least one and a half Mars years (about 1,030 Earth days).
The phases of the Mars 2020 mission will include:
- Launch by an Atlas V vehicle between 20 July and 5 August
- Cruise through space and deep space manoeuvres (DSM)
- Fine approach trajectory adjustments in preparation for entry, descent and landing
- Entry, parachute descent and landing by ‘sky crane’ on 18 February 2021
- Mast and robotic arm deployment
- Engineering and science checks of the rover and instruments
- Start of surface operations
Mars 2020 Mission - Credits NASA/JPL-Caltech