As soon as NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on the Purple Planet in the present day (Feb. 18), its mission group will return to a time-honored custom of planetary exploration — dwelling on “Mars time.”
Controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California will quickly shift to a 24-hour, 37-minute Martian “day” (or sol) to take advantage of out of Perseverance’s first weeks on the Purple Planet, deputy undertaking supervisor Jennifer Trosper mentioned in a information convention Tuesday (Feb. 16).
These weeks can be busy for the rover because it goes by way of a number of checkout actions earlier than beginning its first tentative rolls on the floor, so JPL and related groups wish to benefit from the joy and adrenaline that may accompany the early phases of the mission, officers added.
You can watch the Mars landing live here and on House.com’s homepage, courtesy of NASA, starting at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT). The touchdown is anticipated at three:55 p.m. EST (2055 GMT).
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“There are about 350 individuals and a few further scientists who can be engaged on ‘Mars time’. So proper now they’re adjusting their clocks,” Trosper mentioned in the course of the information convention (available on JPL’s YouTube channel).
“2 p.m. can be our begin time after which that may regulate by 40 minutes day by day, which — whereas it really works — we solely ask individuals to do that for 3 months,” Trosper added. It has led to some enjoyable actions in previous missions. Through the Curiosity rover touchdown of 2012, for instance, one engineer put the children and adults of his family alike on “Mars time” as a result of it was summer time and no person was at school, she mentioned.
The Perseverance group will undergo three cycles (37 Earth days) of Mars time earlier than stepping again to a extra regular Earth-based schedule, she added. “By the third [cycle], by the point we end Mars time, they [controllers] are able to be completed with Mars time. It is arduous in your physique. It is like being jet-lagged.”
“Mars time” has been a relentless for brand spanking new NASA Mars missions for a few years, though generally rescheduling creates distinctive challenges on Earth. The PBS sequence Nova once profiled a married couple working on the first few weeks of the Spirit and Opportunity water-seeking rover missions that landed in 2004. The couple not solely needed to stability their two work schedules, however in addition they have been elevating two kids who have been naturally extra tailored to the 24-hour cycle of planet Earth — and have been nonetheless at college, given each missions landed in January.
The Curiosity rover touchdown in 2012 noticed engineers pondering different sleeping preparations at work since about 20 to 50 individuals have been working at any given time in Mission Management, which relies at JPL. (Most of the Curiosity console operators have been working from home since April 2020, nevertheless, because of new coronavirus pandemic quarantine protocols.)
“The [first] shifts are primarily based on Mars time,” Chuck Baker, mission planner for the cruise portion of Curiosity’s journey from Earth to Mars, told Space.com in August 2012 across the time of the Curiosity touchdown. “You see lots of people who wind up working bizarre hours. Lots of people have cots of their workplaces as a result of getting sleep can get slightly bushy.”
By November 2012, when the primary 90 sols of the mission have been over, at the very least one Curiosity supervisor expressed reluctant reduction at shifting again to Earth’s schedule. “Persons are glad to be going off Mars time,” Richard Prepare dinner, the rover’s deputy undertaking supervisor, said at the time, whereas noting the group had made some improvements that shaved off planning time in the course of the first heady weeks of the mission.
One other Curiosity group member pointed to a different benefit of sharing the identical loopy schedule for some time, which was a way of teamwork.
“The section that we’re finishing, working collectively at one location, has been extremely helpful for team-building and attending to know one another underneath the strain of every day timelines,” mentioned Pleasure Crisp, Curiosity’s deputy undertaking scientist at JPL, in a November 2012 statement. “We now have reached the purpose the place we will proceed working collectively nicely while not having to have individuals dwelling away from their houses.”
NASA continues to carry extra improvements to controllers’ lives to make it as straightforward as potential to work at a excessive normal whereas dwelling in perpetual jet lag. For instance, a 2012 study suggested that naps, light boxes and strict schedules might assist Purple Planet scientists with dwelling on Mars time for weeks at a time. Such insights may additionally be helpful for future Mars-based crews dwelling on web site.
The examine, which was carried out on controllers engaged on the 2008 Phoenix polar-landing mission at Mars, aimed to enhance “sleep, alertness and efficiency,” Steven W. Lockley, a neuroscientist at Brigham and Ladies’s Hospital (BWH), mentioned in an announcement in 2012. Researchers gathered data from 19 Phoenix floor crew members who saved a sleep and work diary, examined their temper, reminiscence and application on obligation, and monitored their sleep patterns by way of an “actigraph” watch.
In 2018, controllers on a a lot smaller group than Curiosity’s got here up with a modified work schedule within the first few weeks of the InSight lander activities; the lander’s purpose is to achieve details about rocky planet exercise and evolution by way of finding out Mars.
“Doing that [Mars time] shift day by day is simply too arduous for human our bodies,” payload programs engineer Farah Alibay said at the time. “When the planets align and we’re in a position to work throughout our daytime and Martian nighttime, then we work day by day, after which after they do not, we work each different day. And there is loads of science evaluation to be finished on the bottom in between these days anyway, so it type of works out.”
Comply with Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Fb.