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Mars 2020: Landed! (by Private)

 

It is now 6 sols, or Martian days, since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed successfully on the Red Planet after its 470-million-kilometer voyage through space as part of the Mars 2020 mission. As “[t]he largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world”, Perseverance is packed with technology that will hopefully be able to reveal more information about the planet’s past. 


You may remember that we posted an article about six months ago introducing NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, so if you are not familiar with the Perseverance rover or its main mission on Mars, I suggest taking a look at that article first. This is a continuation, updating you on the data collected over the first few days since the rover landed on the Martian surface.


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After the rocket’s launch on 30 July 2020 and initial orbit around Earth, the spacecraft hosting the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter was sent out into space on course to Mars. This stage, called the ‘cruise’, has taken just over 200 days, during which the teams here on Earth have kept close tabs on the spacecraft and completed a number of activities to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Some of the major activities during this phase included performing navigation activities and attitude correction spins to determine the correct flight path and making sure the spacecraft’s communications antenna and solar panels were tilted towards Earth and the Sun respectively; to monitor and calibrate the spacecraft and its instruments; and to perform tests of communications among other preparations for the next phase of the mission, the ‘Entry, Descent and Landing’ (EDL). 


On 18 February 2021, Perseverance hit the top of the Martian atmosphere and began the seven minute programmed landing sequence as part of the EDL phase. At this stage, the mission controllers had already turned off the transmitter sending commands to the rover, leaving Perseverance to conduct the landing on its own. During this process, periodic announcements of the spacecraft’s progress were provided in the control room and live streamed event, a nerve-wracking wait to find out whether the rover were to land in one piece or crash into the Martian surface - “the seven minutes of terror”, as Michael Watkins, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, called the rapid descent and landing stage.


At 12:55 p.m. local time, the close to flawless touchdown was finally confirmed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, to erupting cheers in the control room. Safely on the Martian surface, the ‘sophisticated’ rover was able to send its first data from the red planet, which showed that everything seemed to be working as expected. 


Perseverance was the third spacecraft entering Mars this month, as both the Hope spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates and Tianwen-1 from China have recently gone into orbit around the planet. The Chinese spacecraft, consisting of an orbiter, lander and rover, is also expected to attempt a Martian landing later this year. 


/ Panorama of the landing site, stitched together from six individual images taken by Perseverance’s Navigation Cameras on 20 February. 

Source: NASA



To document the entire landing process, the spacecraft was equipped with advanced, high definition cameras, which recorded videos covering the last 11 kilometres of the descent and landing from multiple angles. “For those who wonder how you land on Mars, [...] why it is so difficult, or how cool it would be to do so – you need look no further. [...] Perseverance is just getting started, and [has] already provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk during the press briefing on Monday 22 February, revealing the video. “This video of Perseverance’s descent is the closest you can get to landing on Mars without putting on a pressure suit.” The EDL camera system also had a microphone attached, however, they unfortunately did not succeed in recording usable audible data of the touchdown.


Although the microphone failed to record audio during the landing stage, the device survived the process and was able to record some sound from the Jezero Crater on Mars on 20 February. In addition to some mechanical sounds from the rover, the sound clip, which you can listen to here, includes a breeze, which is the first ever recording of Martian sounds. 


Over the coming weeks, the various mission teams will run a number of tests on all systems and technologies on Perseverance, while Ingenuity, the Mars Helicopter, is still attached to the rover’s belly as the batteries are being charged up in a number of charging sessions. In 30 - 60 days, the helicopter will be deployed on Mars’ surface, and from that point it will be charged solely by its own solar panel during the following 30 day experimental test flight window. Once the helicopter has been deployed, the main part of the mission, collecting rock samples and searching for microbial life in the river delta of Jezero Crater, can commence. 


/ Martian rocks, taken by Perseverance’s right Navigation Camera on 22 February. 

Source: NASA



The surface operation phase of the Mars 2020 mission, when Perseverance will search, collect and store rock samples, is expected to last for at least one Martian year (687 Earth days). However, in order to retrieve the Martian rock samples, two other missions will be working simultaneously in a complex retrieval mission in collaboration with the European Space Agency, among others, later on. The retrieval mission will firstly consist of a lander mission, which will fetch the samples and transfer them to the ascent vehicle that is supposed to launch from Mars carrying the sample tubes, then, a new orbiter, planned to launch from Earth in 2026, will be in position to catch the sample containers and ultimately send them back to Earth in 2031, if everything proceeds as planned. 


“Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA.


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For more detailed information and exciting updates throughout the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission and the Ingenuity test flights, you can follow Perseverance’s Twitter account here, or have a look through the dedicated section on NASA’s website here.





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Comment on the article Mars 2020: Landed!.
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Private wrote on 25-02 16:11:
Melk wrote:
Bones wrote:
I LIKE THIS LAYOUT AND ARTICLE V COOL SPACE STUFF THANK YOU ATENCIA AND MELK
woo space stuff!!
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Bones wrote on 25-02 15:32:
Bones wrote:
I LIKE THIS LAYOUT AND ARTICLE V COOL SPACE STUFF THANK YOU ATENCIA AND MELK
Report | Quote | X
Private wrote on 25-02 11:20:
Melk wrote:
Misjel wrote:
WoaaAAAA masterful layout Melk, and thank you Atencia for keeping me updated, now I'll go flex on my friends with my newfound knowledge 
the master of layouts, that's me if u ignore all the other amazing layouters
yes now u have so much new knowledge 
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Private wrote on 25-02 00:00:
Encrede wrote:
now This is quality content.
i watched the landing live when it was all happening hehehe
and my name was on the rover :3 very epic
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Misjel wrote on 24-02 21:16:
Misjel wrote:
WoaaAAAA masterful layout Melk, and thank you Atencia for keeping me updated, now I'll go flex on my friends with my newfound knowledge 
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Private wrote on 24-02 20:35:
Sofia wrote:
Persephone wrote:
@Sofia feels like you wrote this lol
maybe one day ūüôŹ
seriously though, it was such a thrill to watch! 
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Private wrote on 24-02 19:50:
Melk wrote:
Atencia wrote:
Here's a little update on the Mars landing last week! Are you, like me, going to follow this mission over the next few years? 

Thank you to @Melk for the amazing layout! 

Thank u solveig for writing such an interesting article!!
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Persephone wrote on 24-02 19:36:
Persephone wrote:
@Sofia feels like you wrote this lol
Report | Quote | X
Private wrote on 24-02 18:03:
Atencia wrote:
Here's a little update on the Mars landing last week! Are you, like me, going to follow this mission over the next few years? 

Thank you to @Melk for the amazing layout! 



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