$ 2.5 billion – a rocket, a rover, and a small helicopter – are on their way to Mars. The Atlas V 541 launcher took off punctually at 1:50 pm with the Mars 2020 mission and the Mars rover Perseverance. In addition to the Russian RD-180 engine, the rocket is also equipped with four solid fuel boosters. It is the second largest model of the Atlas V. The mission is now on its way to Mars, where it is due to arrive in February 2021.
The rover is a revised version of Curiosity. The rover has received, among other things, more robust wheels and some improved instruments for rock analysis. However, Perseverance lacks the built-in chemical laboratory for the direct chemical analysis of rock samples. Instead, they should only be collected, encapsulated and left on the surface of Mars. It is planned that they will be picked up on Mars by a second rover, which will take them to a rocket with which the samples will fly into Mars orbit, where they will be picked up by a spaceship and brought back to Earth.
The second rover and the spaceship are to be built in Europe for 1.5 billion euros, the rocket launching from Mars is currently being developed in the USA. The total mission cost for this is currently estimated at around $ 7 billion. This includes $ 2.5 billion for the Perseverance Rover, which is just as expensive as Curiosity.
The planned costs were far exceeded
As a revised version of a mission that had already been carried out, Perseverance was actually only budgeted for $ 1.5 billion. Curiosity, for which the difficult landing technique was developed with the rover suspended on the rocket-powered crane, was originally intended cost as little as $ 1.5 billion, but even with the simple repetition, this framework could not be kept.
In contrast to Curiosity, some instruments have been improved in Perseverance. The so-called Chemcam became the supercam. There is an infrared laser in it, with which the outer layers of rock evaporate and the resulting glowing plasma can be examined spectroscopically. The spectrometer, which is installed anyway, can carry out further examinations with reflected sunlight without the laser.
A new feature in the Supercam is a frequency doubler with the help of which, just like in a laser pointer, a green laser beam can be generated from an infrared laser beam. The reflected light can then be examined with the built-in spectrometer in order to be able to detect chemical compounds even at great distances, which would be destroyed if they were simply evaporated.