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焦点:美国宇航局发射火星探测器寻找古代生命的迹象

2020-7-31 11:18

 

2020年7月30日,美国佛罗里达州卡纳维拉尔角空军基地41号航天发射场,一枚联合发射联盟阿特拉斯5号火箭和美国宇航局的火星探测器“坚持不懈”号在火箭上发射。美国宇航局于周四上午发射了火星探测器“毅力号”,试图在这颗红色星球上寻找古代生命的迹象。(乔尔·考斯基/美国宇航局/新华社发)


华盛顿,7月30日(新华社)——周四上午,美国国家航空航天局发射了“毅力号”火星探测器,试图在这颗红色星球上寻找古代生命的迹象。


美国东部时间上午7点50分(格林尼治标准时间上午11点50分),“月球车”在美国佛罗里达州卡纳维拉尔角空军基地41号航天发射场搭载联合发射联盟阿特拉斯5号火箭升空。


在发射后大约一小时,美国宇航局确认月球车与火箭分离。


“@NASAPersevere漫游者刚刚向地球上的我们发回了第一个信号。宇宙飞船健康状况良好,正在前往火星的路上。”


“我们今天早上发射顺利,我们正朝着火星前进,来自@NASAPersevere的信号很强。我们正在对地面站进行配置以匹配飞船信号的强度。这种情况是我们过去在其他任务中解决过的,”Bridenstine在推特上写道。


经过7个月的旅行,火星车预计将于2021年2月18日在火星Jezero陨石坑着陆。据美国宇航局称,这个45公里宽的陨石坑在它遥远的过去可能是一个绿洲,一个极有可能发现过去微生物生命迹象的地方。


“毅力”号是继“索杰纳”号、“勇气号”、“机遇号”和“好奇号”之后,美国宇航局发射的第五艘火星探测车。它也是美国宇航局建造的最大、最重的火星探测器。


据美国国家航空航天局(NASA)介绍,“嫦娥三号”将搜寻古代微生物生命的迹象,描绘月球的地质和气候特征,收集经过精心挑选和记录的岩石和沉积物样本,为可能返回地球做准备,并为人类探索月球以外的地方铺平道路。


“毅力”号是第一个将样本储存系统带到火星的漫游者,该系统将为未来的任务带回有希望的样本。


“毅力号”的钻头将切割出一块粉笔大小的完整岩心,并将它们放入样管中,直到探测器到达合适的降落地点。


美国国家航空航天局和欧洲航天局正在计划火星样本返回活动,以便用太大太复杂而无法送到火星的仪器来调查这些样本。NASA表示,在地球上检测这些样本将会提供更多关于它们的信息,即使是最复杂的探测车也无法提供。


布里登斯汀说:“2026年,我们将从地球向火星发射一项任务,将这些样本带回地球。”“这是历史上第一次,我们正在执行火星样本返回任务。”


毅力号还将收集关于火星地质和气候的重要数据。美国宇航局表示,研究这颗红色星球的地质和气候还可以让我们了解为什么地球和火星——它们都是由相同的原始物质形成的——最终会如此不同。


毅力号还将一架1.8公斤重的直升机运送到火星表面,这架直升机将成为第一架在另一颗行星上以受控方式飞行的飞机。


这架双旋翼太阳能直升机名为“别出心外”,目的是展示在火星大气中飞行所需的技术。NASA表示,如果成功,这些技术可能会使其他先进的机器人飞行器成为可能,这些飞行器可能会被包括在未来的机器人和人类火星任务中。


为了吸引公众,“坚持不懈”号火星车携带了一个电化镀板,上面用莫尔斯电码写着“一体字探索”,还有三个硅片,上面刻有约1090万报名参加“坚持不懈”号火星之旅的人的名字。


“坚持不懈”计划是一个更大计划的一部分,其中还包括为人类探索红色星球做准备的登月计划。


美国宇航局的任务是在2024年让宇航员重返月球,通过其阿尔特弥斯月球探测计划,美国宇航局将在2028年之前在月球上和月球周围建立持久的人类存在。


每隔26个月,火星就会在其轨道上到达离地球最近的点,而今年夏天是这颗红色星球的最新发射窗口,发射航天器所使用的燃料最少。


“不屈不挠”号的发射是国际社会今年的第三次火星探索,此前中国的第一个火星任务“天文一号”和本月早些时候阿联酋的第一个火星轨道器。

 

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA's Mars rover Perseverance onboard launches from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the United States, on July 30, 2020. NASA launched its Mars rover Perseverance Thursday morning in a bid to search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet. (Joel Kowsky/NASA/Handout via Xinhua)

WASHINGTON, July 30 (Xinhua) -- NASA launched its Mars rover Perseverance Thursday morning in a bid to search for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet.

The rover lifted off at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT) on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the U.S. state of Florida.

NASA confirmed the separation of the rover from the rocket about one hour following the launch.

"The @NASAPersevere rover just sent its first signal back to us on Earth. The spacecraft is in good health and on its way to Mars," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

"We had a good launch this morning, we're right on course for Mars and signal from @NASAPersevere is strong. We are working to configure the ground stations to match the strength of the spacecraft signal. This scenario is one we've worked through in the past with other missions," Bridenstine tweeted.

Following a seven-month journey, the rover is expected to land at Jezero Crater on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. The 45-kilometer-wide crater was a possible oasis in its distant past, a place with high potential for finding signs of past microbial life, according to NASA.

Perseverance is the fifth Mars rover sent by NASA to Mars, after Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. It is also the largest and heaviest robotic Mars rover NASA has built.

The rover will search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet's geology and climate, collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for a possible return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon, according to NASA.

Perseverance is the first rover to bring a sample caching system to Mars that will package promising samples for return to Earth by a future mission.

Perseverance's drill will cut intact rock cores that are about the size of a piece of chalk and will place them in sample tubes that it will store until the rover reaches an appropriate drop-off location.

The Mars sample return campaign is being planned by NASA and the European Space Agency to investigate the samples with instruments too large and complex to send to Mars. Examining those samples on Earth will provide far more information about them than even the most sophisticated rover could provide, said NASA.

"In 2026, we're going to launch a mission from Earth to Mars to go pick up those samples and bring them back to Earth," Bridenstine said. "For the first time in history, we're doing a Mars sample return mission."

Perseverance will also be collecting important data about Mars' geology and climate. Studying the Red Planet's geology and climate could also offer a sense of why Earth and Mars -- which formed from the same primordial stuff -- ended up so different, said NASA.

Perseverance also ferries a 1.8-kg helicopter to the surface of Mars, and the helicopter would be the first aircraft to fly in a controlled way on another planet.

The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter, Ingenuity, is intended to demonstrate technologies needed for flying in the Martian atmosphere. If successful, these technologies could enable other advanced robotic flying vehicles that might be included in the future robotic and human missions to Mars, said NASA.

In a spirit of bringing the public along, the Perseverance rover carries an anodized plate with the words "Explore as one" in Morse code and three silicon chips with the names of approximately 10.9 million people who signed up to ride along on Perseverance's journey to Mars.

The Perseverance mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plans.

Every 26 months, Mars reaches the closest point to Earth in its orbit, and this summer is the latest launch window to the Red Planet, when launching a spacecraft uses the least amount of fuel.

The liftoff of Perseverance is the third Mars exploration of the international community this year following China's first Mars mission, Tianwen-1, and the first Mars orbiter of the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.

 

来自: xinhua