, a 1-ton mobile science laboratory, was slowly lowered to the surface of an ancient lake shore on Mars Thursday afternoon. The landing took place on Earth at 12:55 p.m. PT : “Touchdown confirmed.”
At the moment of landing, during NASA Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, screams and noises rang, but this was unlike previous Mars landings. Cheering scientists and engineers jumped off their chairs, but social distancing requirements prevented them (mostly) from their usual warm hugs.
This is what a rover landing on Mars looks like during a global pandemic.
“What a credit to the team,” said Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA administrator. “Everything went pretty much according to plan.”
In the run-up to the landing, the astronomers expressed a mixture of excitement and nervousness. “The most important thing for a successful mission is a safe landing,” said Glen Nagle, outreach manager at Australia’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, which is part of NASA’s network of courts that communicate with robots across the solar system. “Neither we nor the missionaries have any real control over it.”
The Entry, Descent, and Landing Procedure (EDL) is known as “The Seven Minutes of Terror” – and for good reason, as many things can go wrong. But persistence hit the atmosphere at a speed of around 19,000 km / h and slowed to a complete standstill in 420 seconds, a process NASA has practically made an art. NASA last landed a rover on Mars in August 2012 when.
The mission is to last a Mars year, which corresponds to approximately 687 earth days. But if the story has something to tell, NASA can expand that further than it has before.
In the days to comeoccurred. NASA’s InSight lander listened from its home position of Elysium Planitia near the Martian equator as Perseverance invaded the faint atmosphere. And to capture all the fine details. “This is a new sensory way of engaging with the red planet,” said Alice Gorman, a space archaeologist at Flinders University in Australia. “We can close our eyes, imagine standing on the surface of Mars and listening to the sounds of Mars’ nature.”
were reflected back shortly after being put on in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for mission control. They were captured by the left and right hazard avoidance cameras, two forward-facing cameras on board the rover. They’re a little dusty and just one picture in a band, but they’re wonderful.
Science begins next. Perseverance’s mission is set to usher in a new era of discovery on the red planet. It is believed that the landing site in Jezero Crater was once covered with water. Where there is water, life can arise. “These are the conditions under which early microbial life began on Earth,” says Brendan Burns, an astrobiologist at the University of New South Wales.
Hopefully “Percy”, as the rover was affectionately known, will discover signs of past life in the crater.
“This mission builds on years of exploration that showed Mars was once far more habitable than it is today, but persistence can tell if it was inhabited,” said Alan Duffy, professor of astrophysics at Swinburne University in Australia.
At a post touchdown briefing, Ken Farley said the landing site was “a great place” as it is right on the border of two “geological units” – basically in the middle of different types of rock. In this area Perseverance should be able to learn a lot more about the geological history of Jezero.
And the goals of Perseverance extend over a long period of time Way into the future, with two key components of the mission ready to set the stage for the next missions across the cosmos.
The first is a small helicopter hidden in the belly of the rover known as the Ingenuity. It’s just a test drone, but it could be the first vehicle flown on another planet. Success in the thin Martian atmosphere will pave the way for missions to other planets and moons. “If Ingenuity proves that we can successfully pilot aircraft on other planets, it will significantly expand the exploration possibilities in the future,” says Jonti Horner, astrophysicist at the University of Southern Queensland. Horner points out, which is expected to fly into the sky of Saturn’s moon Titan in 2034.
Back on Mars, Perseverance is expected to take soil samples that can be cached and left on the surface for a future Mars mission to collect. This sample return would be the first of its kind from the red planet. “This is like the coolest thing ever,” says Bonnie Teece, Ph.D. Candidate at the Australian Center for Astrobiology. “There are still things we cannot do from afar and questions that we can only answer with samples from Mars here on Earth.” A Russia-led sample return mission was attempted in 2011, but the spacecraft never made it into orbit.
enduranceUnder the early morning sun of the Florida coast aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V, he traveled from Earth to Mars for the last seven months, sheltered from the harsh environment of space inside the Mars 2020 spacecraft.
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