Speaking to BBC News, Dr David Parker, the director of human and robotic exploration at the ESA, said: 'This is not just twice as hard as any typical Mars mission; it's twice squared - when you think about the complexity involved. This piece of equipment will be able to determine the minerology, chemistry, and even molecular and atomic composition of rocks and soils by firing a laser to study targets more than 20 feet (6 metres) away, but can also function as a cleaning tool for the rover by removing dirt and sand from rock samples, allowing the rover's instruments to have a clearer view. Water is considered a key ingredient for life, and Mars billions of years ago had lots of it on the surface before the planet became a harsh and desolate outpost. It will join Perseverance on its trip to Mars - scouting out routes for the rover. Launch is scheduled for Thursday, July 30.
"I really just can not say enough about how incredible this team was", said Michael Watkins, director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The United Arab Emirates successfully sent off its Hope probe on 19 July and China launched its own orbiter and rover on 22 July.
The joint mission aboard United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral without issues: "It went right on time - it is on a trajectory that has been done with pinpoint accuracy", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at the opening of the post-launch panel shared on YouTube. Atlas V-541 is a two-stage launch expendable launch vehicle. It will arrive on Mars on February 18, 2021, attached to the belly of NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.
Perseverance is a big upgrade over prior rovers in a number of ways. The first is to determine whether life ever existed on Mars, by looking for signatures of biological life or activity. Along with characterizing the planet's geology and climate, Perseverance is on a quest to find signs of ancient microscopic life.
"Perseverance" will also collect samples of Martian rock, with plans to one day return them to Earth.
Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The rover's wheels are more durable than those of its predecessors: they are thicker, are made of a higher grade of aluminium and have a modified shape for better performance.
The rover is carrying with it seven instruments that will help it complete its science goals. The rover has 23 cameras, some of which will be active during its harrowing entry, descent and landing. This rover is created to act as an astrobiologist, studying an intriguing site on Mars for signs of ancient life.
Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape. RIFMAX will help obtain centimetre-scale resolution of geological structures of the subsurface.
While both Curiosity and Perseverance have similar dimensions, Perseverance is 278 kg heavier.
With eight successful Mars landings, NASA is upping the ante with its newest rover. This is very important to prevent contamination of samples.
"The UK Space Agency is supporting these endeavours to explore our solar system with leading-edge robotics, and it is a credit to our expertise in the UK that researchers from both Imperial College London and the Natural History Museum are part of the global crack team working on this Nasa mission". It is also equipped with a miniature helicopter named Ingenuity that weighs 1.8 kilos.
They will then be collected by a future Mars lander which will be built by the European Space Agency (ESA) and will launch around 2026. The resolution of its images will be 10-times higher than those taken by satellites in Mars orbit. Ingenuity is expected to attempt its first flight test in spring 2021.
"We are taking the whole world with us on our way to Mars", said Director Lori Glaze of NASA HQ's Planetary Science Division.