On Thursday, July 30th, NASA launched essentially the most subtle Mars rover ever constructed atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.This mission contains the Perseverance rover (Curiosity‘s sister automobile) and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, each of that are being flown on a seven-month journey by the Mars 2020 spacecraft.
In a minor hiccup, the Mars 2020 spacecraft entered protected mode a couple of hours after launch, apparently as a consequence of a temperature anomaly. This was the conclusion reached by mission controllers after receiving telemetry knowledge on the spacecraft by way of the NASA Deep Space Network. Luckily, the spacecraft is working nominally and is on its approach towards Mars to hitch within the seek for proof of previous (and current) life!
This was one in every of two points that occurred publish-launch, the primary one involving a slight communications difficulty. Mission controllers started receiving communications from the spacecraft by way of the DSN at 09:15 am EDT (06:15 am PDT), however was unable to obtain telemetry knowledge for the reason that sign wasn’t being processed accurately. By 11:30 am EDT (08:30 am PDT), mission groups acquired telemetry that indicated the spacecraft had entered protected mode.
Artist’s impression of Mars 2020 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-CaltechThe communication difficulty was shortly resolved, because it was the results of the spacecraft sending indicators to the DSN whereas nonetheless comparatively near Earth (which might trigger the system to grow to be overwhelmed). The identical difficulty occurred in 2011 through the launch of the Curiosity rover, and NASA engineers have been capable of modify the community to course of the spacecraft indicators briefly order.
“Just as the administrator was speaking, I did just get a text that we were able to lock up on that telemetry,” mentioned Matt Wallace, the deputy venture supervisor for Mars 2020 mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “All the indications that we have – and we have quite a few – are that the spacecraft is just fine.”
It was at this level that mission controllers discovered that the spacecraft had entered protected mode, probably because of its passing inside Earth’s shadow (thus inflicting an surprising drop in temperatures). This happens each time a spacecraft encounters circumstances that aren’t inside established parameters and ends in the shutdown of all non-important methods.
A spacecraft will stay on this mode till it receives new orders from mission management. This difficulty was additionally resolved shortly as controllers accomplished a full well being evaluation and returned the mission to its nominal configuration. The spacecraft has since left Earth’s shadow as effectively and is experiencing regular temperatures.
Once it arrives on Mars – which is scheduled to happen by February 18th, 2021 – Perseverance will set down within the Isidis Basin area of Mars. It is on this influence basin (situated within the northeast fringe of Syrtis Major Planum) that the Jezero Crater is situated, which is the place the rover can be spending the length of its mission trying to find fossilized microbial life.
This area was chosen because the mission touchdown website in 2018 due to the geological options it incorporates. This contains the well-known delta fan that’s believed to be the results of sediment that was deposited by flowing water billions of years in the past. Combined with the presence of clay-wealthy minerals noticed by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express orbiter, this area is taken into account to be a primary location for proof of previous life.
As Thomas Zurbuchen, the affiliate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, mentioned:
“Jezero Crater is the perfect place to search for signs of ancient life. Perseverance is going to make discoveries that cause us to rethink our questions about what Mars was like and how we understand it today. As our instruments investigate rocks along an ancient lake bottom and select samples to return to Earth, we may very well be reaching back in time to get the information scientists need to say that life has existed elsewhere in the universe.”
Samples obtained by Perseverance can be put aside by the rover’s Sample Caching System for eventual return to Earth. NASA is at present collaborating with the ESA to arrange two missions that may work collectively to perform this, which is able to embrace a rover-mounted launch system that may ship the samples into orbit round Mars and a spacecraft that may decide them up and convey them again to Earth.
Once they arrive right here on Earth, scientists from all over the world will conduct in-depth analyses on them which might be merely not attainable on Mars, owing to the large devices and tools concerned. While most of Perseverance’s devices are geared in direction of finding out the geology and astrobiology of Mars, it’s going to conduct numerous scientific experiments that may assist pave the way in which for human exploration.
For occasion, there’s the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument, which is able to exhibit the efficacy of dissociating carbon dioxide to supply oxygen fuel. This course of is prone to be a staple of future crewed missions to Mars, permitting for the in-situ manufacturing of air for habitats to liquid oxygen (LOX) gas.
There’s additionally the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which is able to deploy from the stomach of Perseverance about sixty days after the rover begins science operations on the floor. Through a collection of as much as 5 powered flights, this know-how demonstrator will take a look at if drones can fly within the Martian ambiance and help future missions – with duties starting from scouting and investigating exhausting-to-attain areas to transporting small payloads.
An artist’s illustration of the Mars Helicopter sitting on the Martian floor. Credit: NASA/JPL-CaltechLast, however not least, the rover’s entry, descent, and touchdown (EDL) system will take a look at whether or not comparable methods could possibly be used to land future crewed missions on Mars. Said Michael Watkins, the director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
“Perseverance is the most capable rover in history because it is standing on the shoulders of our pioneers Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. In the same way, the descendants of Ingenuity and MOXIE will become valuable tools for future explorers to the Red Planet and beyond.”
All of that is in step with NASA’s bigger exploration objective of returning astronauts to the Moon (Project Artemis) and creating the mandatory infrastructure to start mounting crewed missions to Mars – collectively generally known as “Moon to Mars.” This plan entails mounting a number of missions on this decade and the subsequent, of which Perseverance is only one (however extraordinarily vital nonetheless).
As NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine put it in a publish-launch NASA assertion:
“With the launch of Perseverance, we begin another historic mission of exploration. This amazing explorer’s journey has already required the very best from all of us to get it to launch through these challenging times. Now we can look forward to its incredible science and to bringing samples of Mars home even as we advance human missions to the Red Planet. As a mission, as an agency, and as a country, we will persevere.”
Further Reading: NASA
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