Perseverance on Mars: The place it’s, and what the following steps are


Perseverance on Mars: Where it is, and what the next steps are

Of their first press convention following Perseverance’s profitable touchdown on Mars, NASA and JPL scientists revealed some info on the place the rover landed and what to anticipate for the following a number of days and weeks because it begins its mission in earnest.

Pics or it didn’t occur

One of many first orders of enterprise is getting a number of the photos, audio, and video taken throughout the touchdown again to Earth. For now, doing so requires utilizing a low-gain antenna to transmit information to a number of the {hardware} in orbit round Mars. Jennifer Trosper, the deputy mission supervisor for the rover, mentioned that the Mars Odyssey orbiter ought to cross overhead briefly inside the subsequent few hours, adopted the Mars Hint Fuel orbiter, which may have an extended overflight and seize bigger quantities of information. Matt Wallace, one other deputy mission supervisor, mentioned that must be sufficient to permit NASA to launch video of the touchdown on Monday.

Longterm, nonetheless, communications will depend on a high-gain antenna that can permit direct communications with Earth. That can require pointing, which suggests understanding the rover’s present orientation on Mars’ floor, which the workforce has inferred from the shadows forged within the first photos despatched down. By the way, these have been taken with clear lens caps on the Perseverance’s navigation cameras, so we will anticipate higher photos as soon as these are eliminated.

Higher photos would require getting the mast with the principle imaging digital camera prolonged, because the digital camera and the high-gain antenna are at present tucked in in opposition to the rover’s physique of their in-flight place. Each of these must be raised into place over the following couple of days.

We’ve got a good higher thought of the place the rover is than we do of its orientation. Al Chen—who led the Entry, Descent, and Touchdown workforce—mentioned the rover touched down about 1.7km from the middle of its meant touchdown space. He famous that Perseverance landed in what he referred to as “a reasonably rugged space.” Displaying the picture under, he mentioned that the blue areas have been thought of acceptable for touchdown, yellow is iffy, and crimson introduced areas the place there was at the least a four % probability of dropping the rover onto one thing unlucky.

For landing, red's bad, blue's good. The onboard software nailed the landing.
Enlarge / For touchdown, crimson’s dangerous, blue’s good. The onboard software program nailed the touchdown.

NASA/JPL

As you possibly can see, the software program managed to put the rover in a comparatively slim channel of blue surrounded crimson—”we did efficiently discover that parking zone,” Chen joked. The rover additionally ended up practically completely upright, with a tilt of only one.2 levels.

Whereas the rover itself is on wonderful terrain, a area of rippled sand was seen within the first photos to return down. “We’d should drive across the ripple area,” Trosper mentioned. “We do not like sand ripples a lot.”

Distant software program updates

Driving will not occur straight away. After spending a few days testing devices, Trosper mentioned the following massive step is placing the driving and navigation software program on the robotic—software program that was nonetheless being labored on whereas the rover was touring to Mars. Clearly, this switch is finished very cautiously, and the workforce expects to spend 4 days updating and validating the software program earlier than beginning any precise driving.

As soon as driving begins, the main focus will likely be on testing out the helicopter drone that the rover carries. This requires a flat spot that meets a set of particular situations. As soon as a website is positioned, the rover has to drop the drone off after which transfer away earlier than it may be examined. Trosper expects that Perseverance will want about 10 Martian days to get the drone able to fly, adopted 30 days spent testing and utilizing the drone to discover the instant environment.

It is possible that, instantly after this course of, the rover will begin sampling a number of the rocks in its instant setting.

Ken Farley, a mission scientist from Caltech, mentioned the areas across the rover might be of curiosity. That is as a result of there is a clear distinction between the place the rover is and the dunes that the workforce needs to keep away from driving way of, and that distinction traces up with indications of various mineral compositions in information obtained from orbit. These kinds of geologic transitions will be informative about an space’s historical past, so the workforce will need to test that out.

Wanting forward

However longterm, the purpose is for Perseverance to drive to what seems to be a delta to the northwest (within the upper-left nook of the picture at prime). This delta is the product of water flows throughout the time of Mars’ early, moist intervals, and it ought to present plenty of alternatives for gathering samples for an final return mission that is nonetheless within the planning phases. The delta is about two kilometers away from the place the rover is now, so there are many alternatives for serendipitous discoveries alongside that drive.

However for now, the important thing efforts will contain testing the gear and getting the high-gain antenna working.

Past all of the plans for the rover, all the things was made harder the problem of working the entire operation throughout a worldwide pandemic. The mission management, as a substitute of being full of excited scientists and engineers, was sparsely populated folks carrying masks and sustaining social distance. Many of the workforce confirmed up in a large Zoom group. Trosper talked about how onerous it was to do her job whereas working in her laundry room (which ended up being wanted for precise laundry at inopportune instances) whereas her youngsters have been in “Zoom college” elsewhere in the home.

Whereas the rover was already in Florida getting prepped for launch, the workforce determined to connect a plaque commemorating the pandemic. Perhaps the plaque will survive lengthy sufficient on Mars’ floor to remind somebody sooner or later that Perseverance was one of many shiny spots in an in any other case tough time.



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