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Artist's illustration of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Perseverance will carry new tech to Mars that represents major technological advances since NASA's last rover — Curiosity — landed on the Red Planet in 2012.

Why it matters: These new experiments and technology demonstrations will fill in gaps in knowledge scientists have about the world and set up future robotic missions in the process.

Details: NASA's Ingenuity helicopter heading to Mars with Perseverance is a technology demonstration designed to autonomously fly through Mars' thin atmosphere as a proof of concept for a full-scale mission in the future.

  • "After receiving commands from Earth relayed through the rover, each test flight is performed without real-time input from Mars Helicopter mission controllers," NASA wrote in a fact sheet.
  • Perseverance will also record sounds from the surface of Mars and during its landing once it arrives about seven months after launch.
  • The scientific tool will allow scientists to listen in as the rover performs its tasks and possibly aid in experiments as Perseverance uses its powerful laser to investigate the composition of Martian rocks.
  • Perseverance's SHERLOC instrument, which is mounted to the rover's robotic arm, will search for organic compounds and possible biosignatures on Mars while also testing out pieces of spacesuit fabric for future human missions.

The big picture: All of these instruments will give scientists a more comprehensive look at Mars than they've had in the past, adding to the data collected by other rovers, landers and orbiters over the decades.

What to watch: Perseverance and all of its technological goodies are expected to leave for Mars Thursday at 7:50am ET from Florida atop a ULA Atlas V rocket.

  • You can watch the launch live via NASA TV starting at 7am ET and follow the Space channel on the Axios app for continuing coverage of the mission.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 27, 2020 - Science

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins on his return to space

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Anadolu Agency, Jim Watson/Getty Images

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is slated to head back to the International Space Station next month for his first flight to orbit since 2013.

Why it matters: Hopkins will command the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will take him and three other crewmembers — NASA's Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi — to the station as part of the capsule's first crewed, non-test flight to orbit.

54 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

2 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.