NASA’s next Mars rover is ready for the most precise landing yet

NASA’s next Mars rover is ready for the most precise landing yet
The aeroshell containing NASA’s Perseverance rover guides itself towards the Martian floor because it descends by way of the environment on this illustration. A whole bunch of important occasions should execute completely and precisely on time for the rover to land on Mars safely on Feb. 18, 2021. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

What to anticipate when the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover arrives on the Pink Planet on Feb. 18, 2021:

With about 2.four million miles (3.9 million kilometers) left to journey in house, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is days away from trying to land the company’s fifth rover on the Pink Planet. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the place the mission is managed, have confirmed that the spacecraft is wholesome and heading in the right direction to the touch down in Jezero Crater at round 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST) on Feb. 18, 2021.

“Perseverance is NASA’s most bold Mars rover mission but, targeted scientifically on discovering out whether or not there was ever any life on Mars up to now,” mentioned Thomas Zurbuchen, affiliate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “To reply this query, the touchdown staff could have its palms full getting us to Jezero Crater—essentially the most difficult Martian terrain ever focused for a touchdown.”

Jezero is a basin the place scientists consider an historical river flowed right into a lake and deposited sediments in a fan form often known as a delta. Scientists suppose the atmosphere right here was prone to have preserved indicators of any life that gained a foothold billions of years in the past—however Jezero additionally has steep cliffs, sand dunes, and boulder fields. Touchdown on Mars is tough—solely about 50% of all earlier Mars touchdown makes an attempt have succeeded—and these geological options make it much more so. The Perseverance staff is constructing on classes from earlier touchdowns and using new applied sciences that allow the spacecraft to focus on its extra precisely and keep away from hazards autonomously.

All landings on Mars are tough, however NASA’s Perseverance rover is trying to the touch down in essentially the most difficult terrain on Mars ever focused. Credit score: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

“The Perseverance staff is placing the ultimate touches on the advanced choreography required to land in Jezero Crater,” mentioned Jennifer Trosper, deputy undertaking supervisor for the mission at JPL. “No Mars touchdown is assured, however we have now been getting ready a decade to place this rover’s wheels down on the floor of Mars and get to work.”

You’ll get to observe the drama of Perseverance’s entry, descent, and touchdown (EDL) – the riskiest portion of the rover’s mission that some engineers name the “seven minutes of terror”—dwell on NASA TV. Commentary begins at 2:15 p.m. EST (11:15 a.m. PST) on Feb. 18. Engineers count on to obtain discover of key milestones for touchdown on the estimated instances under. (Due to the gap the indicators need to journey from Mars to Earth, these occasions truly happen on Mars 11 minutes, 22 seconds sooner than what’s famous right here.)

  • Cruise stage separation: The a part of the spacecraft that has been flying Perseverance—with NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter hooked up to its stomach—by way of house for the final six-and-a-half months will separate from the entry capsule at about 3:38 p.m. EST (12:38 p.m. PST).
  • Atmospheric entry: The spacecraft is anticipated to hit the highest of the Martian environment touring at about 12,100 mph (19,500 kph) at 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST).
  • Peak heating: Friction from the environment will warmth up the underside of the spacecraft to temperatures as excessive as about 2,370 levels Fahrenheit (about 1,300 levels Celsius) at 3:49 p.m. EST (12:49 p.m. PST).
  • Parachute deployment: The spacecraft will deploy its parachute at supersonic velocity at round 3:52 p.m. EST (12:52 p.m. PST). The precise deployment time relies on the brand new Vary Set off know-how, which improves the precision of the spacecraft’s skill to hit a touchdown goal.
  • Warmth protect separation: The protecting backside of the entry capsule will detach about 20 seconds after the parachute deployment. This permits the rover to make use of a radar to find out how far it’s from the bottom and make use of its Terrain-Relative Navigation know-how to discover a protected touchdown web site.
  • Again shell separation: The again half of the entry capsule that’s mounted to the parachute will separate from the rover and its “jetpack” (often known as the descent stage) at 3:54 p.m. EST (12:54 p.m. PST). The jetpack will use retrorockets to decelerate and fly to the touchdown web site.
  • Landing: The spacecraft’s descent stage, utilizing the sky crane maneuver, will decrease the rover right down to the floor on nylon tethers. The rover is anticipated to the touch down on the floor of Mars at human strolling velocity (about 1.7 mph, or 2.7 kph) at round 3:55 p.m. EST (12:55 p.m. PST).

A wide range of elements can have an effect on the exact timing of the milestones listed above, together with properties of the Martian environment which are onerous to foretell till the spacecraft truly flies by way of.

Mission controllers additionally might not be capable to affirm these milestones on the instances listed above due to the complexity of deep-space communications. The circulate of detailed engineering knowledge (referred to as telemetry) in near-real-time depends on a brand new type of relay functionality added this previous yr to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Engineers count on further knowledge to return to Earth instantly by way of NASA’s Deep House Community and two different Earth-based antennas till shortly earlier than landing.

It is necessary to notice that the rover can land safely on Mars with out communications with Earth: Perseverance has pre-programmed touchdown directions and vital autonomy. Extra communication passes are deliberate within the hours and days following the touchdown occasion.

As soon as on the floor, considered one of Perseverance’s first actions will likely be to take footage of its new house and transmit them again to Earth. Over the next days, engineers may also examine on the well being of the rover and deploy the distant sensing mast (in any other case often known as its “head”) so it may possibly take extra footage. The Perseverance staff will then take greater than a month to totally examine the rover and cargo new flight software program to arrange for its seek for historical life on Mars. Throughout the identical interval, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter staff will likely be ensuring their small however mighty robotic is ready for the primary try at managed, powered aerodynamic flight on one other planet.

“The Ingenuity staff will likely be on the sting of our seats with the Perseverance staff on day,” mentioned MiMi Aung, the Ingenuity undertaking supervisor at JPL. “We won’t wait till the rover and the helicopter are each safely on the floor of Mars and prepared for motion.”

Extra In regards to the Perseverance Mission

A key goal of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, together with the seek for indicators of historical microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and previous local weather, pave the way in which for human exploration of the Pink Planet, and would be the first mission to gather and cache Martian rock and sediment for later return to Earth.

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European House Company), would ship spacecraft to Mars to gather these sealed samples from the floor and return them to Earth for in-depth evaluation.

ESA Mars orbiters support NASA Perseverance landing

Offered by
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s subsequent Mars rover is prepared for essentially the most exact touchdown but (2021, February 17)
retrieved 22 February 2021

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