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.