A tightly choreographed dance between NASA’s Deep House Community and Mars orbiters will hold the company’s Perseverance in contact with Earth throughout touchdown and past.
When NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover touches down with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter on the Crimson Planet on Feb. 18, they will not be alone. From orbit, two robotic buddies shall be enjoying a particular function within the occasion by checking in on the mission’s very important indicators from the second Perseverance enters the ambiance to lengthy after it makes its first tracks on the Martian floor.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the Mars Atmospheric and Risky EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter are part of the Mars Relay Community, a constellation of spacecraft that serves as a lifeline to the present floor missions on Mars—NASA’s Curiosity rover and InSight lander.
Whereas some instructions and telemetry could be despatched on to and from Earth, for essentially the most half, the massive portions of science knowledge collected by rovers and landers can’t, as a result of it will take too lengthy. Most knowledge touring again to Earth should first be despatched to the Mars orbiters overhead, which then transmit the information tens of tens of millions of miles by interplanetary area to radio antennas on Earth, together with the antennas of NASA’s venerable Deep House Community (DSN).
“It’s a enormous endeavor to keep up communications with our spacecraft all through the photo voltaic system, however Mars floor missions take this dedication to a different degree,” mentioned Bradford Arnold, DSN challenge supervisor at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Since Mars World Surveyor (MGS) arrived in orbit in 1997, a gradual stream of orbiters has been added, carrying relay radios and antennas, which give extremely environment friendly communications between floor landers and Earth. Whereas the choreography of this relay scheme is now considerably commonplace for property in place, it’s nonetheless extraordinarily difficult to coordinate all of the communication hyperlinks for the very transient time throughout a lander’s arrival.”
This dance will be certain that the world can watch Perseverance’s entry, descent, and touchdown—a harrowing sequence of occasions that may start because the rover’s interplanetary cruise ends.
Over the Horizon
As Perseverance enters the Martian ambiance inside its protecting aeroshell, the rover will swap between a number of of its onboard antennas to remain in touch with Earth. A few of these antennas use highly effective X-band transmissions that may ship small quantities of knowledge on to the DSN. Others use extremely excessive frequencies (or UHF) to speak with MRO and MAVEN.
Managed by JPL for NASA’s House Communications and Navigation program (SCaN), the DSN consists of a number of parabolic radio antennas at floor stations in Southern California, close to Madrid, Spain, and outdoors Canberra, Australia. This configuration permits mission controllers to speak with spacecraft all through the photo voltaic system always all through Earth’s each day rotation. Throughout Perseverance’s touchdown, Madrid’s antennas shall be skilled on Mars, taking the lead when receiving knowledge. The Goldstone advanced close to Barstow, California, can even be listening in as a backup.
Because the touchdown of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Alternative in 2004, science knowledge has been routinely relayed by way of the Mars orbiters to the DSN, starting with MGS after which NASA’s veteran Odyssey orbiter, which has been circling Mars since 2001.
As a result of the ultimate two minutes of Perseverance’s descent and touchdown shall be principally past Mars’ horizon from Earth’s perspective, “direct-to-Earth” X-band communications shall be inconceivable, and the rover will talk with Earth solely by way of MRO and MAVEN when it lands.
In orbit since 2006, MRO was designed as a science mission and to behave as a communications relay for landed floor missions. But it surely obtained an improve to organize for Perseverance’s touchdown.
“Up to now 12 months, the software program of the MRO spacecraft and its UHF radio have been up to date to permit the near-immediate return of knowledge collected throughout EDL. MRO will seize the telemetry transmitted by Perseverance and use its 3-meter [10-foot] dish to transmit it instantly to Earth,” mentioned Roy Gladden, supervisor of the Mars Relay Community at JPL. “We name this a ‘bent pipe,” which permits us to get phrase from Perseverance despite the fact that Mars is obstructing our view from Earth.”
First Phrase From Jezero
As MRO relays Perseverance’s touchdown in near-real-time, engineers in mission management hope to verify touchdown—and obtain the primary picture—quickly after 12:55 p.m. PST (3:55 p.m. EST). Due to the gap the sign has to journey from Mars to Earth, the spacecraft can have landed (often known as “spacecraft occasion time”) 11 minutes and 22 seconds earlier.
Later, at about 4:27 p.m. PST (7:27 p.m. EST), Odyssey will fly over the touchdown website and talk with the rover to verify its well being. The subsequent relay session after that shall be at about 6:36 p.m. PST (9:36 p.m. EST) by ESA’s (the European House Company’s) Hint Fuel Orbiter (TGO), which can even test in on Perseverance’s well being and relay any photographs the rover has transmitted from the touchdown website.
As well as, MAVEN will seize the complete touchdown with a data-rich broad spectrum recording, and can ship the data again to Earth a number of hours after touchdown. This knowledge might be used to fill in any telemetry (engineering knowledge) from the rover throughout EDL that was missed by MRO through the preliminary relay, and supply different measurements of the occasion.
This buddy system helps be certain that little knowledge is misplaced throughout Perseverance’s historic touchdown in Jezero Crater whereas additionally confirming the well being of the rover and its exact location.
After all, communications do not cease after touchdown. That is when the difficult activity of sending instructions to Perseverance and receiving the rover’s enormous science knowledge output will start.
Throughout its mission, the rover can have all the orbiters within the Mars Relay Community for assist—together with NASA’s MRO, MAVEN, Odyssey, and ESA’s TGO, which has been enjoying a key function within the community for the previous few years. Even ESA’s Mars Categorical orbiter shall be accessible for emergency communications ought to the necessity come up. Whereas the NASA orbiters talk completely with the DSN, the ESA orbiters additionally talk by way of the European House Monitoring community and floor stations situated in Russia.
Though the Mars Relay Community has expanded to incorporate extra spacecraft and extra worldwide companions, with each new floor mission comes added complexity when scheduling the relay periods for every orbiter flyover.
“Curiosity and InSight are close to sufficient to one another on Mars that they’re virtually all the time seen by the orbiters on the identical time after they fly over. Perseverance will land far sufficient away that it might’t concurrently be seen by MRO, TGO, and Odyssey, however typically MAVEN, which has a bigger orbit, will be capable of see all three autos on the identical time,” added Gladden. “Since we use the identical set of frequencies when speaking with all three of them, we now have to rigorously schedule when every orbiter talks to every lander. We have gotten good at this during the last 18 years as rovers and landers have come and gone, together with collaborating with ESA, and we’re excited to see the Mars Relay Community set new throughput data because it returns Perseverance’s enormous knowledge units.”
Finally, this communications endeavor connecting Earth and Mars will allow us to see high-resolution photographs (and listen to the primary sounds) captured by Perseverance, and scientists will be capable of additional our data in regards to the Crimson Planet’s historic geology and engaging astrobiological potential.
Extra About Perseverance
A key goal of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, together with the seek for indicators of historic microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and previous local weather, pave the way in which for human exploration of the Crimson Planet, and be the primary mission to gather and cache Martian rock and regolith.
Subsequent missions, at present into account by NASA in cooperation with ESA, would ship spacecraft to Mars to gather these sealed samples from the floor and return them to Earth for in-depth evaluation.
The Mars 2020 mission is a component of a bigger NASA initiative that features missions to the Moon as a solution to put together for human exploration of the Crimson Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will set up a sustained human presence on and across the Moon by 2028 by NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.
For extra info, see eyes.jpl.nasa.gov/mrn
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Mars Relay Community connects Earth to NASA’s robotic explorers (2021, February 17)
retrieved 23 February 2021
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