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NASA receives first weather reports from Perseverance rover on Mars at Jezero Crater

Apr 9, 2021 0 comments

The NASA Perseverance rover reported this week on the weather from Mars’s Jezero Crater for the first time, providing data that will augment scientific understanding of the Martian atmosphere and inform future decisions about the rover’s mission.

The weather data will also help mission scientists decide when to launch Ingenuity, a drone-like helicopter that’s set to take flight as early as Sunday.

Perseverance, which was launched from Earth on July 30, arrived on Mars in mid-February and has been exploring the surface and collecting data.

Scientists say its weather will better shape what we know about radiative processes and the cycle of water in Mars’s atmosphere. There is not much of it, but water trapped beneath solid carbon-dioxide ice caps at the poles can be vaporized during the summertime and enter the atmosphere. Part of the plan with Perseverance is to unlock clues about what happens afterward.

Perseverance is in Mars’s Jezero Crater, a site NASA chose for the rover’s landing thanks to its wide expanses, free of obstacles, and the presence of a dried-up river delta from 3.5 billion years ago.

On April 3 and 4, the rover’s Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer, or MEDA, reported a high temperature of minus-7.6 degrees, and a low of minus-117.4 degrees. That rivals the coldest temperature measured on Earth - minus-128.6 degrees observed at the Vostok weather station in Antarctica on July 21, 1983.

The MEDA probes for temperature at four levels - the surface, 2.76 feet, 4.76 feet and 98.43 feet. While barely touching the surface of the lower atmosphere, the MEDA is expected to help offer insight into Mars’s radiation budget. In other words, scientists will learn how sunlight striking the surface is transformed into heat that enters and cycles through the atmosphere.

Perseverance is not the first spacecraft to send weather observations from the surface of Mars. Curiosity, which landed in 2011, suffered damage to one of its wind sensors. That meant that it could measure wind speed, but not wind direction. Because Perseverance can tell from which way the winds are blowing, scientists hope to use its observations in tandem with those of Curiosity and satellite measurements to learn about Mars’s general atmospheric circulation.

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