Arizona State University plays big role on Perseverance rover mission to Mars

Arizona State University is playing a major role in a mission that launched the Perseverance rover to Mars.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the rover into space on July 30. It traveled aboard the company's Atlas V rocket, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:50 a.m.

ASU scientists created one-of-a-kind camera system

Scientists at ASU created one-of-a-kind cameras to be the eyes of the rover all in hopes of discovering evidence of life on Mars.

"That mast goes 360 degrees around, up and down, so it points the cameras wherever we want them," said Dr. Jim Bell.

Dr. Bell says the cameras were specially made to handle conditions on the Red Planet, which can see enormous temperatures swing, 100s of degrees everyday, and fine dust grains in the atmosphere.

"We were leading the operation on those cameras at ASU from the Tempe campus, with other companies and universities on NASA centers,"  said Dr. Bell.

Weighing nearly nine pounds, the Mastcam-Z has panoramic capability, can take high-quality video, and shoot 2-megapixel and 3-D images. The camera system is placed on top of the rover to give people a closer look at Mars. 

"So just get the lay of the land, the different kinds of geologic features, layers, topographies, all the things that geologists would do with their own eyes. We're using the rover's eyes to do that," said Dr. Bell.

The Mastcam-Z will also assist engineers and mission operations. 

"We will help rover drivers direct how to avoid obstacles, and where they will go, how to get from point A to point B," said Dr. Belll.

The rover is expected to travel through space for seven months, and land at the Jezero Crater on mars on February 18, 2021.

"Our expectation is that we're going to the best possible place to do this, and if we do see any evidence chemical, mineral, physical, it's going to be subtle," said Dr. Bell.