When Nasa's next-generation Mars rover Perseverance lands on the surface of the red planet next Thursday, key Airbus technology will be on board.
The French aerospace and defence company's meteorological station will provide scientists with valuable Mars weather data while the High Gain Antenna System will ensure a high-speed communication link with Earth for the duration of the mission, Airbus said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nasa's Mars mission will examine Martian rock and soil in greater detail than ever before in search of evidence of past life on the planet and store, for their subsequent return to Earth, signs or traces of past life.
Perseverance will use seven scientific instruments to study the Martian biological and geological environment, including the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyser (MEDA) meteorological station that was designed and built by Airbus.
The MEDA instrument will measure several environmental factors using sensors distributed across the rover: wind speed and direction, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, soil and air temperatures, solar radiation and properties of suspended dust.
These parameters will also be key when making the autonomous decision on whether to release the Ingenuity helicopter on board the rover.
MEDA is the third Martian environmental station led by Airbus.
The first was on board the Curiosity rover in 2012, known as Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS), and the second on InSight in 2018, called Temperature and Wind for InSight (Twins).
All data from Perseverance's discoveries will be sent to Earth through the high gain antenna system designed and built by Airbus.
The antenna will directly send scientific data generated by the different instruments and information on the health status of the rover, without the need for intermediate links such as orbiters.
In addition, the vehicle will receive daily instructions from Earth with tasks for the day, Airbus said. As the antenna is steerable, it can send a “beam” of information pointing directly at the Earth without moving the vehicle, which contributes to energy savings.
Perseverance will also test technologies to help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars, such as generating oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or the first flight of a small helicopter on another planet.