The race through space at speeds of over 12,000 miles per hour, according to NASAI arrived at Mars on Thursday and set off on an exciting seven-minute trek through the atmosphere to On the surface of the Red Planet to search for evidence of previous microbial life in the remains of an ancient lake.
«Landing confirmation! Persevere safely on Mars, ready to start looking for signs of past life!» Swati Mohan, the steering, navigation and control officer who monitors telemetry at JPL, has been called in when the rover has landed. Aviation engineers, if socially distant, cheered in cheers and applause, and anxiety gave way to a rest in the joy of the moment.
The relief was understandable. Often described as «Seven Minutes of Terror», Rover A.’s landing wasA computer-staged event that had to work flawlessly to get the 2,260-pound rover safely on an ancient lake in Jezero Crater, avoiding the dangerous cliffs, large rocks and sand dunes in the process.
And the $ 2.4 billion rover did just that.
«I almost felt like I was dreaming,» said Jennifer Trosbear, deputy project director. «Our job is to think about all the bad things that can happen and try to avoid them, and when all the good things happen, you feel like you are dreaming. I am so happy to feel that I am dreaming!»
President Biden chirp: «Congratulations to NASA and everyone who contributed their hard work in making the historic landing of Perseverance possible.»
The spacecraft collided with the upper Martian atmosphere at 3:48 PM EST, quickly slowed down in an atmospheric friction fire, and its heat shield withstanding temperatures as high as 2,700 degrees — hot enough to melt stainless steel — and braking force of 10 times the force of Earth’s gravitational pull.
It slowed down to just under 1,000 mph, deployed a gigantic 70.5-foot parachute into the supersonic ramp and used an advanced guidance system to identify hazards and choose a safe landing spot on
Then, less than a minute after landing, at an altitude of about 2.1 miles, Perseverance fell free from the parachute while still landing at 200 mph. Seconds later, eight engines ignited in a missile-powered backpack, slowing the vehicle to less than 2 mph by the time it reached an expected altitude of just 70 feet or so.
At that point, the persistence was lowered towards the suspended surface by ropes while the jet beam continued to descend. At 3:55 pm, the rover’s six wheels landed on the roof, the ropes snapped and the Sky Crane backpack set off, crashing at a safe distance.
«Hey world,» he tweeted, «persevere» a few minutes after landing, and published the rover’s first photo of its landing site. «First look at my house forever.»
Earth fell below the horizon as seen from Jezero Crater one minute before landing, cutting X-band radio signals straight to Earth out of perseverance. But UHF signals confirming the landing were transmitted to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was passing overhead.
Mohan stated that “the celestial crane maneuver had begun. About 20 meters above the surface,” as the rover’s descent approached its end.
«We’re still getting signals from MRO,» said an engineer.
«Confirmation of landing!» Mohan called after a moment.
A few moments later, the first image from one of the rover’s danger cameras appeared, showing a relatively flat surface without large rocks or other obstructions to view. «Yes! Whoo Hoo!» An engineer shouted as the picture flashed onto the control room screens.
The automatic landing of the rover appears to be working flawlessly, as the trip computer used several cameras, radar and other sensors to find out exactly where it was in relation to the planned landing target. The rover then changed course as required to avoid the risk of potential mission completion.
It had to persevere from the descent on its own because the radio signals, traveling at 186,000 miles per second, took more than 11 minutes to cross the 127 million miles of bay between Earth and Mars. Flight engineers at the JPL could just sit and wait, watching the data flow in 11 minutes after the fact.
And to rest them after seven monthsAnd an interplanetary cruise covering 293 million miles, NASA’s fifth spacecraft on Mars, the first specifically designed to search for signs of past life, was safely on the surface of the Red Planet.
Jezero Crater was targeted because it once contained a 28-mile-wide body of water the size of Lake Tahoe. The ancient lake was fed by a river breaking through the crater rim, depositing sediments in a fan-like delta that could be clearly seen from orbit. The rover landed about 1.2 miles southeast of the delta, near the center of its expected 4.8 x 4.1 mile descent imprint.
«We think we’re facing southeast in shadows, about 140 degrees,» Trosbear said. «The tilt is flat, about 1.2 degrees. The power system looks good … everything looks great.»
A robot geologist on Mars
Assuming no major problems occur, engineers plan to spend around 90 days checking the rover’s complex tools and systems.
During the first month, they also plan to deploy and test a small 4.5-pound, $ 80 millionYou will attempt the first powered flight in the thin air of Mars, and it is the «Wright Brothers’ moment» in another world.
Another experiment will test the feasibility of extracting oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, a technology that could someday help future astronauts produce air and rocket fuel.
But the mission’s primary goal is to search for signs of past biological activity.
Equipped with a robotic arm, a basic sampling exercise and a set of cutting-edge cameras, laser beams evaporating rocks and other tools, the Perseverance will study the bottom sediments of lakes, venture across the delta, and eventually finish away from the shore of the ancient lake, collecting promising samples along the way.
The selected rocks and soil will be placed in a complex internal circular mechanism that independently photographes, analyzes and loads them into sealed tubes the size of lipstick. The rover will then deposit the sealed samples on the surface of Mars or temporarily store them while awaiting capture.
NASA and the European Space Agency plan to send another spacecraft to Jezero later this decade to collect samples, load them into a small rocket and detonate them in Mars orbit where another spacecraft will disable them on their return trip to Earth.