After efficiently touching down on the Martian floor on February 18, 2021, NASA groups have began the numerous checkouts required to start working the Perseverance rover. The mission touched down inside 5 meters of their touchdown goal (the touchdown goal that was chosen by the terrain relative navigation system, not the pre-planned estimation), and a number of other minutes later despatched its first picture of the Martian floor again to Earth.
Preliminary checkouts and deployments
Perseverance’s first process on the floor of Mars was to deploy its Distant Sensing Mast (RSM). The mast is dwelling to most of the scientific devices, such because the SuperCam, Mastcam-z, and the environmental sensors (MEDA). The mast can also be dwelling to four cameras, which started photographing the rover’s environment shortly after profitable deployment.
As soon as Perseverance’s mast was deployed, the rover activated its excessive acquire antenna to extend communication bandwidth.
Throughout this course of, the rover additionally started to calibrate all of its cameras. Perseverance has two coloration calibration goal units, which every comprise eight preset recognized colours. Figuring out precisely what these colours ought to seem like permits the NASA groups to make sure the colour accuracy of all photographs coming from the rover.
Since touchdown, Perseverance has additionally efficiently begun communications with NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Risky EvolutioN), the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and Mars Odyssey spacecraft, in addition to the European Space Agency‘s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). Now that profitable communications have been established, the orbiters can be utilized to relay information to Earth.
NASA has additionally began the primary of many checkouts of the sensors and instrumentation on board Perseverance. Up to now, all seven devices have carried out their preliminary checkouts and are performing nominally and as anticipated. Moreover, NASA has carried out movement exams of the RSM, which have all been nominal as nicely.
Since touchdown, Perseverance has activated its backup pc and has begun the transition from Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) software program to floor operations software program. Each computer systems, the Linux Working System, and the picture compression algorithm are all open supply.
Altering each pc’s software program to the floor operations software program will permit for additional checkouts of the entire sensors, the robotic arms to be deployed, testing of the “turret” on the top of the arm which comprises a drill, digital camera, and devices.
Since touchdown, the Ingenuity helicopter has additionally gone by preliminary checkouts, which have handed, and has began charging for its first flight. The time and placement of its flight has not been chosen, as groups are ready to obtain extra information of the encircling space.
Within the coming weeks, Perseverance will straighten its wheels and carry out a brief check drive to validate all programs. Following the drive check, the rover will carry out extra checkouts earlier than attending to work on its scientific analysis mission.
NASA was capable of report video footage from parachute deploy to landing, and launched the footage on February 22.
NASA hoped to seize audio of EDL, however a communication error between the system chargeable for digitizing the analog indicators from the microphone and the pc meant the audio was not recorded.
Nonetheless, the microphones have been mounted, and NASA has launched audio of the rover’s programs working and the Martian wind. That is the primary time that audio has been recorded on the floor of Mars (NASA’s InSight mission measured sound wave vibrations which had been transformed into audio, however didn’t instantly report any sound).
Whereas it’s at the moment not recognized how lengthy the microphone will survive, because it was a business off the shelf microphone not designed to deal with the hostile setting of Mars, groups are hoping to make use of it to diagnose any issues with the instrumentation.
The primary mission goal is a continuation of NASA’s efforts to find proof of present or previous life on Mars. Perseverance will try and establish environments that might have supported life through the purple planet’s previous.
If Perseverance identifies attainable liveable environments, NASA will then search the for indicators of present or earlier life. The rover will search by regolith, the encircling setting, and particular forms of rock which can be recognized to protect proof of life.
One other mission goal of Perseverance is to gather a number of geological samples and depart them in ultra-clean “caching” tubes on the floor of the planet. Perseverance has 43 pattern containers, and NASA hopes to fill not less than 20 of them.
The rover has a drill carousel that comprises a number of drill bits to make sure NASA can cache a number of completely different sorts of regolith and rocks. As soon as a bit is chosen, Perseverance will use its massive arm to drill and gather the pattern, and transfer it into the gathering tube. The samples will then be saved on-board the rover to guard them and guarantee they’re correctly sealed.
As soon as the samples are correctly sealed, they are going to be inspected and saved within the stomach of the rover. The samples will stay right here till groups at NASA decide the place the “pattern cache depot” might be situated. Perseverance will then deposit the samples at that location (or presumably a number of areas) and be certain that each absolute coordinates and proximity to different landmarks are recorded.
Alongside the 43 pattern tubes, Perseverance additionally has one other 5 “witness tubes,” which might be used to make sure the importance of any scientific findings within the samples. The witness tubes might be used to validate that any natural matter within the samples didn’t arrive on the rover, and guarantee any gases inside the pattern tubes are launched from the pattern, and weren’t carried from Earth.
Sooner or later, NASA plans to return these samples to Earth. A observe up mission would wish to launch, land on Mars, gather the samples, and launch them into low-Mars orbit. At this level, one other mission would gather the Martian samples from orbit, and transport them again to Earth.
NASA’s plans name for a pattern return mission to launch no sooner than 2026, with a pattern return no sooner than 2031.
The ultimate goal of Perseverance might be to make the most of In-Situ Useful resource Utilization (ISRU) to create a small quantity of pure oxygen gasoline from the Martian ambiance. The experiment, named The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Useful resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), is a 1/200 scale article of a design that could be used sooner or later to create oxygen for breathable air or rocket propellant.
MOXIE will soak up carbon dioxide from the Martian ambiance and produce carbon monoxide and oxygen gasoline. NASA hopes to supply 22 grams of oxygen gasoline per hour, with a purity of larger than 99.6%, for 50 sols.
Sensors on Perseverance
Perseverance is carrying seven devices, 19 cameras, and two microphones. That is essentially the most instrumentation that has ever been despatched to Mars’ floor on a single car.
The primary instrument is the aforementioned MOXIE, for use to supply oxygen gasoline from the Martian ambiance.
The second instrument mounted on Perseverance is the Planetary Instrument for X-Ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), which is a fluorescence spectrometer. PIXL might be used to supply an in depth geochemical evaluation of the setting, which might be used to assist decide if an space was liveable. If PIXL determines the realm round Perseverance is or was liveable, PIXL will try and detect any indicators of earlier life and can characterize the geochemistry of the realm.
PIXL may even assist NASA groups decide the place to gather samples for future return to Earth.
The third sensor on the rover is the Scanning Liveable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemical substances (SHERLOC). SHERLOC is an ultraviolet Raman spectrometer that may assess if a pattern of regolith would have been liveable and decide the aqueous historical past of the regolith. The instrument can also be going to evaluate the provision of atoms required for all times, and assist decide if sure Martian rocks and outcrops present indicators of life or present biosignatures.
The Radar Imager for Mars’ subsurface experiment (RIMFAX) is the fourth instrument on Perseverance. RIMFAX will use radar to measure the density of the regolith, picture buried rocks and meteorites, and detect ice and brine as much as 10 meters under the floor.
The fifth sensor on Perseverance is the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA). MEDA will measure the floor circumstances of Mars, together with the wind velocity, stress, humidity, and radiation ranges. MEDA may even measure the form and dimension of mud, offering priceless information about Martian mud storms.
Mastcam-Z is a stereoscopic imaging instrument on Perseverance, consisting of two cameras. MastCam-Z might be used to characterize the general panorama round Perseverance, assess atmospheric circumstances, and supply help in rover navigation.
The ultimate instrument on Perseverance is SuperCam, which consists of a digital camera, two lasers, and 4 spectrometers. Positioned on the mast, SuperCam will help the opposite suite of sensors in searching for natural compounds
SuperCam has a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) which can shoot a laser (with a wavelength of 1,064 nm) at an space of a few sq. millimeters. The laser will vaporize the rocks within the space, making a plasma that may be analyzed with the spectrometers to find out the fundamental composition of the regolith.
The in depth instrument suite will start supporting Perseverance’s mission targets following the completion of ultimate post-landing checkouts and deployments.
(Lead picture of Perseverance below the Sky Crane simply previous to landing – through NASA/JPL)