Live Updates: The Latest on NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Mars

This is what you need to know:.

The team of the Perseverance rover celebrated the successful landing of the spacecraft at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. on Thursday. Credit…Bill Ingalls/NASA, via Agence France-Presse – Getty Images.

NASA landed a new robotic rover on Mars on Thursday. It was the most ambitious attempt in decades to directly investigate whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

While the agency has landed other missions to Mars, the $2.7 billion Perseverance robot carries a sophisticated suite of scientific instruments that offer advanced capabilities for the search for life beyond our planet.

Perseverance was the third robot visitor from Earth to arrive at the Red Planet this month. Last week, two more space probes – Hope from the United Arab Emirates and Tianwen-1 from China – were put into orbit around Mars.

But the NASA spacecraft didn’t go into orbit first. Instead, it rushes along a straight path to the surface.

At 3:48 p.m. eastern time, controllers at NASA’s Mission Control Center at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California, received a message from Perseverance that it had entered Mars’ upper atmosphere at a speed of more than 12,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft has begun the landing maneuver that will bring it to a halt in seven minutes, in a state of alert.

Perseverance fired two shots after a successful landing Thursday. related to NASA TV credit.

The second of two images of the Martian surface sent by Perseverance. related to NASA TV credit.

All the people on Earth could do was watch and hope that Perseverance would behave as expected. On Mars, the rover’s fate had already been decided.

Mars is currently 126 million miles from Earth. Radio signals travel at the speed of light and take 11 minutes to get from here to here. That is, by the time the message to begin landing reached Earth, the rover had been on Mars for four minutes. The only ambiguity was whether it was safe there in one piece, or whether it had broken into several pieces, another artificial crater on the surface of Mars.

The atmosphere in NASA’s operations center – sparsely populated than in previous landings on Mars because of the precautions needed to combat the coronavirus pandemic – was thoughtfully calm, punctuated by applause when certain events went off without a hitch.

The movement of the spacecraft in the atmosphere was reported at regular intervals: It slows down and heats up as it passes through the thin air of Mars, deploys a huge parachute even at supersonic speeds, lowers the rover’s heat shield so the cameras can navigate to the destination, launches rocket engines to further slow the descent.

In the final phase, the rover was lowered at the end of the cable below the rocket launch pad until it touched the surface.

At 1555 hours it was reported to the control room that Perseverance was intact on the surface. Touchdown confirmed, said Swati Mohan, an engineer who commented on the run.

Over the past 20 years, NASA has been asking increasingly difficult questions about Mars. In the beginning, the mantra was: Follow the water, because there may have been life there once. With huge canyons, winding riverbeds and signs of dried-up lakes, it has become clear that water flowed on Mars in the past, even though the planet is now cold and dry.

The endurance goal is the Jezero crater. The rover will explore the delta of the river that once flowed into the lake that filled the crater. The sediment mounds are a promising place where the fossil chemical signatures of ancient Martian microbes can now be preserved.

 

Helicopter of ingenuity

The four-kilogram aircraft will communicate wirelessly with the Perseverance rover.

Sheets

The four carbon fiber blades rotate at approximately 2400 hours.

Power

A plutonium-based power source will charge the rover’s batteries.

MAST

The cameras will take videos, panoramas and photos. The laser will study the chemistry of Martian rocks.

PiXl

Identifies chemical elements to look for signs of life on Mars.

Antenna

will transmit the data directly to Earth.

Robot arm

A revolver with extra tools is attached to the robot’s 2 meter long arm. The drill will take samples of Martian rock. The Sherloc device uses a Watson camera to identify molecules and minerals to detect possible biosignatures.

Endurance Rover

The 2,200-pound rover explores Jezero crater. It is equipped with aluminium wheels and a suspension that allows it to overcome obstacles.

 

Helicopter of ingenuity

The aircraft will communicate wirelessly with the rover.

Power

A plutonium-based power source will charge the rover’s batteries.

MAST

The cameras will take videos, panoramas and photos. The laser will study the chemistry of Martian rocks.

PiXl

Identifies chemical elements to look for signs of life on Mars.

Robot arm

A revolver with extra tools is attached to the robot’s 2 meter long arm. The drill will take samples of Martian rock. The Sherloc device uses a Watson camera to identify molecules and minerals to detect possible biosignatures.

Endurance Rover

The 2,200-pound rover explores Jezero crater. It is equipped with aluminium wheels and a suspension that allows it to overcome obstacles.

 

Robot arm

A revolver with extra tools is attached to the robot’s 2 meter long arm. The drill will take samples of Martian rock. The Sherloc device uses a Watson camera to identify molecules and minerals to detect possible biosignatures. PiXl will identify chemical elements to look for signs of past life on Mars.

The rover’s design is largely identical to that of the Curiosity rover currently exploring Gale crater. But it has a different set of tools, including advanced cameras, lasers that can analyze the chemical composition of rocks, and ground-penetrating radar. Testing of these instruments on Earth has shown that it is possible to find traces of past life.

The mission will also collect a series of rock and dirt samples that will be taken on a future mission to Mars and eventually returned to Earth.

Video

Animation showing the test flight of NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech Video

NASA’s new rover carries a four-pound helicopter called Ingenuity, which will attempt what has never been done before: the first controlled flight to another world in our solar system.

Going to Mars is no trivial task. There’s not much air in it to push and lift it. On the surface of Mars, the atmosphere is only 1/100th denser than that of Earth. Less gravity – a third of what you feel here – helps in the air. But taking off from the Martian surface is like flying through the air as subtly as 100,000 feet on Earth. No helicopter on the ground has ever flown that high, and that’s more than twice the altitude that planes normally fly.

NASA engineers have used a variety of materials and computing technologies to overcome some of these challenges. About two months after landing, Perseverance will land the helicopter on its belly, and Ingenuity will attempt a series of about five test flights of increasing duration.

If the test succeeds, it could pave the way for future larger helicopters. The ability to use flying robots could significantly increase the space agency’s ability to study the landscape of Mars in more detail, just as the shift from fixed landers to rovers has done in recent decades.

Conceptual model of a NASA orbiting sample container designed to contain rock tubes and soil samples from Mars for return to Earth. Credit…NASA/JPL-Caltech

Send a robot spaceship to Mars, take the rocks and the earth and bring them back to Earth.

It can’t be that hard.

It’s more of an interplanetary circus act than you might think, but NASA and the European Space Agency believe the time is finally right to perform this intricate choreography, throwing pieces of rock from one spaceship to another before the monsters finally land on Earth in 2031.

One of Perseverance’s main objectives is to drill up to 39 rock cores. Each rock and dirt sample, weighing about half an ounce, will be sealed in an ultra-clean metal tube the size of a cigar, and the Perseverance will bring each tube to the surface.

According to current plans, the monsters will wait in the cold while the rover continues to explore Jezero crater.

In 2026, two spacecraft should be launched to Mars on a rocket return mission.

Artist’s concept of a vehicle proposed for ascent to Mars, left, releasing a sample container high above the Martian surface. Credit…NASA/JPL-Caltech

One will be a NASA-built lander that will be the heaviest vehicle ever placed on the surface of Mars. It will carry a European-made rover that will collect rock samples, and a small rocket that will put the rocks into orbit around Mars. It will arrive in August 2028, and the rover will set out to collect at least a few rock samples to bring back and transfer to the lander for launch from Mars.

A football-sized sample container waits over Mars with the European Space Agency’s Return of Earth orbiter installed. If it had succeeded in capturing the container, the orbiter would have left Mars. As it approaches the earth, it will eject monsters that will land in the desert of Utah.

The mission is expected to cost billions of dollars, but it is the long-awaited goal of explorers of Mars to study the rocks and find out if life ever existed on Mars.

To get to the bottom of some really intriguing questions, we need to analyze the evidence at the molecular level and try to get information from very, very old materials, said James Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, in a 2020 interview. And that requires a whole set of instruments that are clearly too large to be reduced in size and transferred to another planet.

An artist’s concept of the Perseverance rover descending through the Martian atmosphere to the surface. Hundreds of critical events had to occur perfectly and at exactly the right time for the rover to land safely. Credit…NASA/JPL-Caltech

In a nutshell: Perseverance had to slow down from more than 12,000 miles per hour to a complete stop during what NASA called seven minutes of terror between its return to the atmosphere and the rover’s landing. We didn’t get a chance to make a trade. The path of perseverance crossed the surface of Mars. The only question was whether the rover appeared intact and ready to begin its mission, or whether it had broken into several pieces.

The subtle atmosphere of Mars adds different levels of difficulty. The spacecraft needs a heat shield because, when air molecules are compressed, the bottom of the spacecraft heats up to thousands of degrees. But there’s not enough friction to slow it down for a soft landing with parachutes alone.

The artist’s concept of the rover Perseverance, from below, descending to the surface of Mars. linked to NASA credit, via the Associated Press.

The spacecraft would perform the landing itself. It takes 11 minutes to transmit a radio signal from Mars to Earth. In other words, if something had gone wrong, it would have been too late by the time NASA mission control got the message.

Everything has to be done in its own way, says Matt Wallace, assistant project manager. Endurance has to work really hard to get to the surface under its own power. It’s like a controlled disassembly of a spaceship.

First, the capsule-shaped container that keeps the rover separated from part of the spacecraft is called the cross phase. This section contained the systems needed for a $300 million trip from Earth to Mars, but they would have been useless for a passage through Mars’ atmosphere.

About 80 seconds after re-entering the atmosphere, the space capsule reached maximum temperatures, with the heat shield underneath reaching 2,370 degrees Celsius. The inside of the capsule is much cooler – about room temperature. As the air became denser, the spaceships slowed.

Small thrusters at the top of the capsule fire to change the angle and direction of descent and maintain course at the landing site.

At an altitude of about seven miles, four minutes after the re-entry, the capsule was traveling at a speed of less than 1,000 miles per hour. Then he unfolded a huge parachute, over 100 feet in diameter.

Then the probe lowered its heat shield so cameras and other instruments could see the terrain below it to determine its position.

Even with a huge parachute, the spacecraft would still fall at about 200 km per hour.

The next, decisive step was the so-called sky crane maneuver. The upper part of the capsule, called the rear shell, was released and carried away by the parachute. There are two pieces of the spaceship left. The top was a descent – essentially a jetpack with a rover underneath. The thrusters of the descent phase were activated and oriented first to avoid collision with the rear fuselage and the parachute. The engines slowed the descent to less than two miles per hour.

At about 66 feet above the surface, the rover was then lowered onto ropes. The descent continued until the rover’s wheels hit the ground. Then the cables were cut and the descent ladder flew off and crashed at a safe distance from the rover.

Members of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover team during mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California Thursday. Credit…Bill Ingalls/NASA, via Associated Press.

NASA has done this before. In 2012, the Curiosity rover, which is currently on Mars, successfully used the same landing system.

Perseverance led to stronger parachutes and a more accurate navigation system. NASA engineers say they have tried everything to increase the chances of a successful landing, but they will never know if they have considered all options until the landing is successful.

We’ve never found a good way to calculate the probability of success, says Wallace, deputy director of the project.

Over the decades, NASA has made eight of nine attempts to land on Mars. The only failure was that of the Mars polar probe in 1999. (Nor did the two basketball probes on this mission, which were released during descent and were intended to survive the collision.)

Image taken by the UAE HOPE spacecraft on its approach to Mars on the 10th. February.Credit…Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center/US Space Agency, via Associated Press.

The NASA rover is the third spacecraft to arrive at the Red Planet this month. Two more robot probes, built by the United Arab Emirates and China, reached orbit last month. These three spacecraft were launched in July 2020 to take advantage of the biennial period when the distance between Earth and Mars is shorter than normal.

The first new visitor to Mars was Hope, a robotic probe from the United Arab Emirates that was sent to Mars last summer aboard a Japanese rocket. The probe was built at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics, where engineers and scientists from the Emirates worked closely with their American counterparts.

Until last year, the UAE’s small space program only built Earth observation satellites and sent an astronaut to the International Space Station for a short stay. The Mars orbiter has broadened the ambitions of the program with the long-term goal of inspiring more Emiratis to pursue careers in science and technology.

But the Hope spacecraft will also help planetary explorers on Earth. During his mission, he will spend at least two years collecting data on how dust storms and other weather conditions at the Earth’s surface affect the rate at which air from Mars escapes into space. It could help us better understand how Mars, which flowed on its surface in the early days of the solar system, evolved into the cold and seemingly lifeless world it is today.

The probe flew on the ninth. February in a job. Sunday, the 10th. In February, Emirates released a live image of Mars taken by Hope from a distance of about 15,000 miles. Half of the rusty world emerges from the shadows to reveal some of Mars’ giant volcanoes, including Mons Olympus, the largest volcano in the solar system, and an icy region at the North Pole.

Video

Cameras from the Chinese spacecraft Tianwen-1 captured Mars as it began orbiting the Red Planet. CNSA video

Whether Perseverance lands Thursday or not, it won’t be the only spacecraft trying to land on Mars in one piece this year.

China is the second country to arrive at Mars this month, with the launch of its Tianwen-1 spacecraft on the 10th. February in a job. China’s lunar exploration program has accomplished a lot over the past decade, and Tianwen’s trip is the country’s first successful trip to another planet in our solar system.

A video released by the Chinese Space Agency last week showed the Red Planet as Tianwen-1 entered orbit. The spacecraft’s cameras captured Mars’ haze and some features of the planet’s surface as the probe passed by.

China has now adjusted Tianwen-1’s orbit to fly over the planet’s poles, similar to the orbits used by some NASA and European space probes to observe Earth’s surface. He begins preparations for launching the dinghy and paddle robot that will be brought to the surface. China has stated that this landing will be attempted in May or June. His destination is Utopia Planitia, a large impact basin on the surface of the Red Planet. After the successful landing – if it succeeds – the Chinese space agency plans to announce the name of the rover.

There are a few people on the Red Planet.

In addition to the newcomers, six other ships are currently studying the planet from space. Three were sent by NASA: Mars Odyssey, launched in 2001, Mars Reconnaissance, launched in 2005, and MAVEN, which left Earth in 2013.

Europe has two spacecraft in orbit. The Mars Express orbiter was launched in 2003 and the ExoMars Trace Gas orbiter, part of the Russian space program, was launched in 2016.

India operates its sixth spacecraft, the Mars Orbiter, also known as the Mangalyaan, which was launched in 2013.

There are currently two US missions in the field. Curiosity has stabilized since 2012. They are joined by InSight, which has been studying earthquakes and other internal features of the Red Planet since 2018. The other US mission, the Opportunity rover, expired in 2019 when it lost power due to a dust storm.

Working on the solar glass of the James Webb Space Telescope at the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. Chris Gunn/NASA.

Mars may be the highlight of NASA’s calendar this year, but there are many more interesting missions planned for the coming months. While some may extend to 2022 for various reasons, others are likely to leave their launch pads this year.

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Telescope, could be NASA’s most important science project this year. The project was delayed for years, undermined by technical problems and installation costs. NASA and astronomers and planetologists around the world are eagerly awaiting the moment when it will separate from Earth at the end of October.

NASA also has a number of missions to the moon that could happen this year.

The first step toward returning astronauts to the lunar surface at the end of this decade will be an unmanned test flight of a massive space launch system being built for future U.S. launches into deep space. The rocket has experienced many delays and rising costs, but NASA is still planning a trip, known as Artemis-1, to send Orion, an astronaut capsule, around the moon and back to Earth. The launch of this mission depends on the successful test launch of the rocket engines, scheduled for next Thursday.

NASA is also launching a program called Commercial Lunar Payload Services and has contracted with several private companies to build robotic landing vehicles to bring cargo to the lunar surface for NASA and other customers.

In the fourth quarter of 2021, the Nova-C spacecraft, built by Houston-based Intuitive Machines, could take off from a SpaceX rocket and fly to the moon. Another company, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic, plans to land its Peregrine lander on the lunar surface later this year.

In addition, the agency plans to conduct two more deep space missions in 2021.

The first, a test spacecraft for redirecting two asteroids, is designed to test whether a spacecraft can deflect an asteroid that is on its way to the Earth’s surface. To that end, he will visit Didymos, a pair of asteroids near Earth that together orbit the sun, and try to collide with them to push a smaller rock into orbit. The launch is scheduled for July.

The second mission, Lucy, will be launched in October and will fly much farther and orbit Jupiter. He will study the Trojans, asteroids that move in the same orbit as Jupiter, but hundreds of millions of miles ahead or behind Jupiter, caught in the giant planet’s gravity. Scientists believe these cosmic rocks may hold secrets about how the outer planets of the solar system were formed.

Close-up of Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons. It is located 17 miles away and is being visited by the Japanese mission MMX.Credit…NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

While other worlds in the solar system invite exploration, scientists are far from done with Mars, even though three new explorers are heading to the Red Planet this year. In addition to NASA’s planned monster return mission to Europe, there are at least three other missions in development, and more surprises may await humanity in the next decade.

The European Space Agency and Roscosmos, the space agency of the Russian Federation, could be the next visitors to attempt a landing on Mars with a rover named after Rosalind Franklin, the British chemist who played a central role in elucidating the structure of the double helix of DNA. Both countries had planned to launch the rover in 2020. However, a number of technical problems were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, so the mission had to be postponed. The current plan is to launch it in 2022 and arrive on Mars in 2023.

Japan is also expected to attempt a mission to Mars later this decade. Unlike other space probes, it will focus on the Red Planet’s small moons, Phobos and Deimos. An exploration mission to Mars’ moon could arrive as early as 2025 and prepare for a brief landing on the surface of Phobos to collect rock samples.

By sending samples back to Earth as early as 2029, the Japanese mission could shed light on how the moons formed and provide clues about the appearance of Mars in the early stages of its evolution as a planet. The trip will also build on the experience of the successful Hayabusa 2 mission, which Japan just completed in December to collect samples from the asteroid Ryugu and bring them back to Earth.

A third mission to Mars is planned, but not yet fully implemented. This month, NASA agreed to work with the Italian, Japanese and Canadian space agencies on the Mars Ice Mapper. It will be put into orbit around Mars and try to locate the places on the planet where the largest ice deposits are found close to the surface. This could help identify future landing sites for human missions. The spacecraft will not be launched before 2026.

Finally, it is possible that private companies will consider visiting Mars in the next decade. SpaceX, the private rocket company that is currently the biggest player in launching satellites into orbit, has long been driven by founder Elon Musk’s vision to colonize Mars. The goal of sending humans to the Red Planet seems a long way off. But while Musk’s company continues to work on a spacecraft, a prototype of a next-generation rocket, a SpaceX launch to Mars seems plausible in the next few years.

 

frequently asked questions

Has perseverance ever landed on Mars?

Less than a day after the successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars 2020, engineers and scientists at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California were eagerly awaiting Perseverance’s next transmission.

What time will the Perseverance probe land on Mars?

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is scheduled to land on the Red Planet at 3:55 p.m. today (Feb. 18). EAST (2055 GMT) – or at least that’s when NASA will know if it landed.

What is NASA doing on Mars right now?

Using the camera of NASA’s most powerful telescope to date, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can observe unique images of Mars on another planet. Its five other scientific instruments collect data on the Red Planet.

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