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24 Hours to Landing: A Timeline for NASA’s Perseverance

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Perseverance atmospheric entry
An artist’s impression of atmospheric entry over Mars. NASA

And now, there are three! Final week, the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe and China’s Tianwen 1 mission arrived in orbit across the Pink Planet. Tomorrow, NASA’s Perseverance rover will try to duplicate the 2011 sky-hook touchdown pioneered by the Curiosity Rover.

Perseverance is about to land in Jezero Crater on Thursday, February 18th at three:55 p.m. EST (20:55 UT). After a 6½-month journey, Perseverance is racing throughout the ultimate million miles. However earlier than it might land, the spacecraft first has to finish an advanced Entry, Respectable, and Touchdown (EDL) method and arrival sequence. Weighing in at 1,025 kilograms (2,260 kilos), Perseverance would be the largest payload ever to land on Mars.

Perseverance shares many similarities with its look-alike predecessor, Curiosity, reminiscent of nuclear energy. It additionally incorporates classes realized, reminiscent of aluminum wheels which might be narrower in width and bigger in diameter than Curiosity’s, with twice the tread in a curved form that is designed to be extra proof against wear-and-tear

There are additionally a variety of improvements particular to this mission. Throughout touchdown, the spacecraft will use the brand new onboard hazard avoidance system: The Lander Vision System (LVS), which is provided with Terrain-Relative Navigation that allows it to check what it sees in real-time throughout descent to preloaded maps.

As soon as it lands, Perseverence will greater than show its personal identification with brand-new devices, some particularly designed for future exploration and others to seek out indicators of life no Mars. Perseverance will try and carry out oxygen manufacturing on Mars utilizing the MOXIE experiment, and it brings a Raman spectrometer known as SHERLOC to scan for natural and water-altered supplies. Lastly, Perseverance consists of the first-ever helicopter set to fly on Mars, named Ingenuity.

In contrast to Curiosity, Perseverance will particularly look to handle the query of previous life on Mars, and can gather and cache samples for a future pattern return mission to retrieve someday within the subsequent few years.

Perseverance landing
An artist’s conception of Perseverance touching down on Mars.
NASA/ JPL-Caltech

The Closing 24-hour Timeline

In contrast to Tianwen 1, which is able to take its time in touchdown on the Pink Planet, Perseverance is coming straight in for a touchdown. The spacecraft will hit the highest of the ambiance at 20,000 kilometers per hour (12,500 mph) and, if all goes properly, land gently on the Martian floor about seven minutes later. Mild-travel time from Mars to Earth is 11 minutes, so your entire course of occurs autonomously — and there might be some breathless ready earlier than we hear whether or not the touchdown was successful.

NASA’s Deep House Community might be listening for Perseverance to “cellphone dwelling” through relay from NASA’s venerable Mars Odyssey and MAVEN missions. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter may also relay knowledge and should try and picture the rover’s descent. As well as, Mars InSight may try and “hear” for the reverberations of the touchdown from three,452 kilometers away.

Landing sequence
The touchdown timeline for Perseverance.
/ JPL-Caltech

The Mars Entry, Descent, and Touchdown Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2), an upgraded model of an identical system aboard Curiosity, accompanies the touchdown, gathering knowledge for future missions. Put in contained in the rover’s protecting backshell, MEDLI2 makes use of 28 sensors on the warmth defend’s exterior to relay info throughout atmospheric entry. These sensors embrace stress transducers, warmth flux sensors, and thermocouples. MEDLI2 will activate 5 hours previous to touchdown and relay updates each 45 minutes. Ten minutes earlier than atmospheric interface, across the similar time because the spacecraft sheds the cruise stage with the photo voltaic panels, radios, and gas tanks used on the journey to Mars, MEDLI2 will start steady readings.

“Current profitable checkouts of our MEDLI2 in the course of the Mars 2020 cruise display that our system is performing as supposed and has survived the preliminary spherical of harsh flight environments,” says Henry Wright (NASA-Langley Analysis Middle) in a latest press release. “We’re looking forward to the profitable EDL of Mars 2020!”

Perseverance: Sensor installation
Set up of the MEDLI2 sensors on the spacecraft warmth defend.
Lockheed Martin

Through the crucial 100 seconds after entry, temperatures will attain a blazing 1300°C (2400°F) outdoors the warmth defend, although the rover will stay at room temperature. Small thrusters will alter for any air pockets that might barely offset the spacecraft’s trajectory.

A brand new vary set off determines when Perseverance will deploy its supersonic parachute some 240 seconds after atmospheric entry. At this level, the spacecraft continues to be 11 km up however coming down fast.

Twenty seconds after the parachute is deployed, the spacecraft will jettison the warmth defend. Now the hazard-avoidance system can kick in, mapping out and figuring out floor options. The Lander Vision System is barely operational for 25 seconds, and relying on what it reviews about Perseverance’s actual place, the navigation system could choose a unique touchdown web site.

The parachute detaches after the spacecraft has slowed to 200 mph. The ultimate stage of the descent is rocket-powered, setting the lander up for the ultimate sky-crane sequence. Simply 12 seconds earlier than landing, about 20 meters above the floor, the descent stage will decrease Perseverance right down to the bottom utilizing a set of 6.Four-meter-long cables.

Perseverance: Landing ellipse
Perseverance’s landing ellipse over Jezero Crater is proven, with the much-larger touchdown ellipses for Curiosity, InSight, Phoenix lander, and Mars Pathfinder for comparability.
ESA / DLR / FU-Berlin / NASA / JPL-Caltech

You possibly can watch the action live on NASA TV beginning at 2:15 p.m. EST (19:15 UT) on February 18th. If the final Curiosity touchdown was any indication, we may see the primary picture of the Martian floor solely moments after a profitable touchdown. We may even see photos of the touchdown itself, relayed from the spacecraft’s EDL cameras to Earth through Mars Odyssey because it makes its first go over Jezero Crater.

One factor’s for sure: The ‘Great Galactic Ghoul of Mars,’ which is alleged to have a style for Earth-built spacecraft isn’t invited to the present tomorrow. Get set for a wild journey for Perseverance, because the climactic big-ticket occasion for “Mars Season 2021” begins.


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