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NASA releases first-of-its-kind high-definition video of Mars rover landing – Spaceflight Now

NASA officers launched never-before-seen views of a spacecraft touchdown on one other planet Monday, showcasing multi-angle replays recorded by ruggedized high-definition cameras mounted on the Perseverance rover final week when it safely touched down on Mars.

The mission’s entry, descent, and touchdown cameras recorded video as Perseverance made its technique to a touchdown web site in Jezero Crater, a location that was house to a lake of liquid water greater than three billion years in the past. The imagery dropped at life the rover’s high-stakes touchdown maneuvers, displaying the mission’s supersonic parachute blowing open straight away, adopted by separation of the craft’s warmth protect, and a last descent powered by eight throttleable rocket engines

Lastly, the descent stage rocket pack lowered the one-ton rover to the Martian floor on three nylon bridles. The rocket engines slowed the descent to a crawl within the last seconds earlier than landing, whipping up a cloud of mud earlier than the descent stage lower the cords to the rover and flew a secure distance away to affect the Crimson Planet.

Matt Wallace, deputy venture supervisor on the Perseverance mission, mentioned floor groups at JPL had been “like youngsters in a sweet retailer” as pictures from the entry, descent, and touchdown, or EDL, cameras streamed again to Earth by way of an interplanetary radio hyperlink over the previous few days.

In all, Perseverance’s EDL cameras collected greater than 23,000 pictures — totaling greater than 30 gigabytes — for engineers to string collectively into high-definition video clips, based on Dave Gruel, the mission’s EDL digital camera lead at JPL.

“I don’t find out about you, however it’s unlikely at this level in my profession that I’ll pilot a spacecraft all the way down to the floor of Mars, however while you see this imagery, I believe you’ll really feel like you’re getting a a glimpse of what it will be wish to land efficiently in Jezero Crater with Perseverance,” Wallace mentioned.

Perseverance’s touchdown system, referred to as the “sky crane” by NASA engineers, had the identical design that the Curiosity rover used to efficiently attain Mars in August 2012. However till now, the system’s designers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California had by no means seen the sky crane at work.

That’s as a result of engineers can’t put the rover touchdown system by an end-to-end take a look at on Earth. The Martian ambiance is lower than 1 p.c the density of Earth’s, and the gravity on Mars is 38 p.c that of Earth, that means NASA couldn’t take a look at the complete touchdown sequence in a Mars-like atmosphere.

Curiosity carried a downward-facing digital camera that recorded the rover’s descent into Gale Crater, displaying the warmth protect separation and options on the Martian floor rising bigger within the moments earlier than landing. However the 2012 touchdown lacked the decision and the multitude of views on Perseverance.

“That is the primary time we’ve been in a position to see ourselves, see our spacecraft, land on one other planet,” Wallace mentioned.

“With the ability to see this method function like this in high-definition, touchdown at Jezero, it doesn’t get too a lot better than that,” Wallace mentioned.

Engineers seen just a few minor surprises within the video, based on Al Chen, Perseverance’s entry, descent, and touchdown section lead.

The parachute lid on prime of the spacecraft’s backshell appeared to return off in a number of chunks, relatively than in a single piece. One of many chunks seemed to be a radome antenna used to speak with the spacecraft on the cruise to Mars. Engineers knew which may occur, Chen mentioned.

One of many springs used to push the warmth protect off the rover throughout descent appeared to return unfastened in flight, Chen mentioned. However the different separation springs labored as anticipated, and the spacecraft was not endangered, he mentioned.

The spacecraft’s 70.5-foot-wide (21.5-meter) supersonic parachute billowed open in lower than a second on the command the rover’s steerage laptop, which timed the chute deployment when Perseverance was at predetermined location relative to its touchdown web site. The parachute deployment set off was a brand new function on Perseverance, permitting the mission to focus on a extra exact touchdown zone than earlier Mars probes.

The violent chute deployment shook the spacecraft within the EDL digital camera views.

“The parachute is packed so densely that the pack is mainly the identical density as oak, and it’s about 150 kilos,” Chen mentioned. “It will get launched out of the spacecraft with a mortar, which mainly a cannon with a muzzle velocity of about 100 mph.”

The shock of the mortar firing knocked one of many mission’s three parachute-pointing EDL cameras offline. The craft’s different 5 cameras — two pointing on the parachute, one on the descent stage wanting down, and two on the rover — all functioned as designed.

“The entry, descent, and touchdown system behaved as anticipated, and it did what it needed to do,” Chen mentioned. “A giant shout out to the terrain relative navigation system, which put us down within the most secure spot that was obtainable to us.”

After “textbook” deployment and inflation, the parachute slowed the spacecraft from a velocity almost twice the pace of sound, organising for launch of the 14.8-foot-diameter (4.5-meter) warmth protect, revealing the Martian panorama to a touchdown radar and cameras to assist steer Perseverance towards a secure touchdown web site.

The terrain relative navigation functionality used on Perseverance used pictures from on-board cameras to discover a flat, rock-free zone for touchdown.

The ultimate section of the touchdown sequence used eight hydrazine-fueled rocket jets to place the brakes on the rover’s descent. The rocket pack and rover separated from the highest a part of the spacecraft’s aeroshell, leaving the parachute behind, and ignited the eight thrusters at an altitude of about 1.three miles, or 2 kilometers.

The descent smoothed out in the course of the last seconds earlier than touchdown.

Lastly, because the descent stage neared the Martian floor, the rover lowered on three nylon cords and configured its six-wheel suspension for contact. The rover fired a pyrotechnic blade to sever the bridles and {an electrical} umbilical as quickly because it sensed it was on the bottom, permitting the descent stage to quickly ascend and divert away from Perseverance.

The video reveals a cloud of mud kicked up by the touchdown engines, which produced clear exhaust not seen within the rover’s upward-facing digital camera view. Hints of a pink glow from the super-hot engines are seen close to the thrust chambers, Chen mentioned.

Ultimately, the rover’s terrain relative navigation system succeeded in selecting a secure touchdown web site, and Perseverance set down simply 16 ft, or 5 meters, from the situation the spacecraft autonomous chosen, based on Chen.

“As a fresh-faced child when the sky crane was invented, I used to be in that room, and it’s wonderful to see it lastly in motion,” Chen mentioned. “Although we knew it labored as soon as, we didn’t know for certain it was going to work once more. And for it to work once more, for us to see it, is unbelievable.”

“The video of Perseverance’s descent and touchdown, and the wonderful panorama, and the primary vast panorama shot of Jezero Crater seen with the human eye, and the primary Martian sounds are the closest you will get to touchdown on Mars with out placing on a strain swimsuit,” mentioned Thomas Zurbuchen, affiliate administrator of NASA’s science mission directorate.

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Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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