NASA’s subsequent Mars rover is slated to the touch down on the Purple Planet on Thursday (Feb. 18) in a vital “seven minutes of terror” sequence that requires a cautious and exact entry, descent and touchdown (EDL).
The Mars 2020 mission, together with the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, launched on July 30, 2020. It can try to land contained in the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater after spending roughly six-and-a-half months touring towards the Purple Planet. The rover will hunt for indicators of previous microbial life and doable liveable environments on Mars whereas gathering samples that may be returned to Earth by a future mission marketing campaign.
Perseverance is touring to Mars in an analogous manner that NASA’s Curiosity rover did in 2012. Because the spacecraft cruises towards the Purple Planet, the Perseverance rover and its descent stage are protected inside a capsule often known as an aeroshell, which is hooked up to the ring-shaped cruise stage. The cruise stage options eight thrusters that fireplace at particular occasions to maintain the spacecraft on target to Mars, in addition to photo voltaic arrays that assist energy the spacecraft and antennas to speak with Earth.
Beneath is a step-by-step information on how these parts will work collectively for Perseverance’s landmark touchdown on Mars.
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance touchdown: Everything you need to know
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Perseverance rover approaches Mars
As of Feb. 16, Perseverance has 2.four million miles (three.9 million kilometers) remaining on its 292.5-million-mile (470.eight million km) journey and was zooming via house at 49,290 mph (79,330 km/h) relative to the solar. (You possibly can track the rover’s progress in real time here.)
Within the final three weeks earlier than touchdown, mission management focuses on navigation actions, resembling correcting the spacecraft’s trajectory, and making ready the car for EDL.
On this artist’s illustration, photo voltaic arrays are seen on high of the cruise stage, which assist present energy along with the spacecraft’s most important energy supply, often known as the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.
The aeroshell separates from the cruise stage about 10 minutes earlier than Mars 2020 enters Mars’ atmosphere, as proven on this illustration. Then, the aeroshell, which comprises the Perseverance rover and descent stage, travels to the Martian floor by itself.
Measuring almost 15 toes (four.5 meters) in diameter, the aeroshell consists of two elements: the backshell and the warmth defend, which protects the spacecraft from burning up within the excessive warmth generated throughout the preliminary descent via the planet’s environment. The aerodynamics of the warmth defend additionally function a “brake” to assist gradual the spacecraft.
Coming into the Martian environment
The EDL section begins when the spacecraft reaches the highest of the Martian environment, at which level it’s travelling almost 12,100 mph (19,500 kph). Roughly 90 seconds after atmospheric entry, peak deceleration happens, throughout which the spacecraft slows to beneath 1,000 mph (1,600 km/h).
Throughout its descent to the floor, the spacecraft slows down utilizing the drag generated by its movement within the Martian environment. The aeroshell additionally fires small thrusters on the backshell to reorient itself and ensure the warmth defend is going through the Purple Planet because it plunges into the environment.
This artist’s idea depicts the preliminary phases of the spacecraft’s descent to Mars.
Seven minutes of terror
EDL will final roughly seven minutes. As soon as the EDL section begins, the spacecraft makes use of a method known as guided entry. It takes about 14 minutes or so for radio indicators to journey from the spacecraft to Earth, which means the spacecraft will land on Mars with none assist or intervention from NASA floor groups — which is why the spacecraft’s touchdown has been known as “seven minutes of terror.”
The spacecraft’s warmth defend, which faces towards the planet, will endure peak heating of two,370 levels Fahrenheit (about 1,300 levels Celsius), 75 seconds after getting into the environment.
On this illustrated scene, the friction of Mars’ environment is slowing the spacecraft’s descent and heating the warmth defend.
About 4 minutes after getting into the Martian environment, the spacecraft will deploy a supersonic parachute from its aeroshell, as proven on this illustration. Measuring 70.5 toes (21.5 m) in diameter, the parachute will deploy at an altitude of about 7 miles (11 km) and a velocity of about 940 mph (1,512 kph). The parachute will assist gradual the car to about 200 mph (320 kph).
The parachute might be deployed utilizing a brand new know-how known as Vary Set off, which can assist Mars 2020 slender in on the goal touchdown space. NASA engineers have stated that the Range Trigger technology can scale back the scale of the touchdown ellipse — an oval-shaped space across the touchdown goal — by greater than 50%, which means it would take Perseverance much less time to get to its location of curiosity in comparison with earlier missions which have landed on Mars. Vary Set off will autonomously regulate the timing of the parachute deployment primarily based on the spacecraft’s place and distance from its touchdown goal.
Perseverance contained in the backshell
Subsequent, the heat shield will separate and drop away from the backshell about 20 seconds after the parachute is deployed. The Perseverance rover and descent stage stay tucked contained in the backshell of the spacecraft, because the parachute system continues to gradual its descent to the Martian floor.
On this artist’s idea, the rover is uncovered to Mars’ atmosphere for the primary time. In preparation for landing, the car’s touchdown radar and Terrain-Relative Navigation system — a brand new autopilot know-how — will start assessing its altitude, place and velocity to assist information the rover to a secure touchdown on Mars.
The Terrain-Relative Navigation know-how is new to Perseverance and features a Lander Imaginative and prescient System, which makes use of a downward-facing digicam to take pictures throughout descent, in addition to an onboard pc to course of the pictures and calculate the spacecraft’s approximate place relative to the bottom on a finer scale than earlier touchdown know-how allowed. With this knowledge, the brand new navigation system can regulate the rover’s landing level to keep away from unsafe touchdown circumstances.
The Vary Set off and Terrain-Relative Navigation applied sciences make touchdown on the ground of Jezero Crater doable, given the world’s difficult terrain, which incorporates steep cliffs, sand dunes, boulder fields and smaller influence craters.
Powered descent stage
When the spacecraft reaches an altitude of 1.three miles (2.1 km), the rover and descent stage will separate from the parachute and backshell. The descent stage is provided with eight throttleable retrorockets, or Mars touchdown engines, which assist gradual the spacecraft in preparation for landing on the floor of Mars.
On this artist’s illustration, the descent stage fires up its engines throughout the last minute earlier than Perseverance lands on the Purple Planet. At this level in its descent, the spacecraft is touring at about 190 mph (306 km/h). The touchdown engines will assist information the spacecraft to its touchdown goal, degree out after which gradual the car to its last descent velocity of about 1.7 mph (2.7 km/h).
At about 65 toes (20 m) from the bottom — or about 12 seconds earlier than landing — a sky crane will decrease the rover safely to the floor. Three nylon cables lengthen 25 toes (7.6 m) under the descent stage to deliver the rover to the bottom. In the meantime, the rover will stretch its legs and produce its wheels into touchdown place.
As soon as the rover senses that its wheels have touched the bottom, it would minimize the cables connecting it to the descent stage, which can then fly off and crash-land safely away from Perseverance. If all goes in keeping with plan, the rover will start its roughly two-year mission exploring Jezero Crater.
This illustrated scene exhibits the Perseverance rover touchdown safely on Mars, hooked up to the sky crane tethers.
The primary interplanetary helicopter
The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, presently hooked up to Perseverance’s stomach, will detach from the rover someday between 30 and 90 days after the spacecraft touches down on the Purple Planet. The helicopter will take a number of pioneering test flights to show that robotic flight is feasible within the skies of one other planet.
Step-by-step touchdown information
This illustration captures a step-by-step view of the seven-minute entry, descent and touchdown plan for NASA’s Mars 2020 spacecraft.
Observe Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Observe us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.