NASA’s Perseverance rover is not prepared to start out rolling on Mars simply but.
The SUV-sized Perseverance landed inside Mars’ 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater yesterday (Feb. 18), kicking off an formidable floor mission that may hunt for indicators of historic Purple Planet life and gather dozens of samples for future return to Earth, amongst different duties.
However it’ll possible be just a few months earlier than Perseverance, the guts of NASA’s $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, actually begins sinking its tooth into that science work.
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For starters, the rover’s handlers will spend the following few Martian days, or sols, getting Perseverance on top of things in its new digs. (A sol lasts 24 hours and 40 minutes, simply barely longer than an Earth day.) The staff will stabilize the six-wheeled robotic’s energy, thermal and communications methods in order that new, surface-tailored flight software program may be uploaded from Earth, Mars 2020 deputy mission supervisor Jennifer Trosper mentioned throughout a post-landing information convention yesterday.
As this “crucial infrastructure” work is continuing, “we’re additionally doing different well being checks of different devices,” mentioned Trosper, who’s based mostly at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Over the course of the three sols or 4 sols of those early actions, we’ll get all of the instrument well being checks executed; we’ll cost the rover battery.”
Perseverance’s head-like, instrument-laden mast can even be deployed in these first few sols, permitting nice new imagery to be captured. For instance, the rover’s MastCam-Z camera system is scheduled to take its first colour panoramas on sol three, Trosper mentioned. (Touchdown day was sol zero, and right now, Feb. 19, is sol 1.)
The brand new software program add will start on sol Four, if all goes based on plan. And that essential step will take a while to finish.
“As soon as we begin to do this, we do about 4 days of transitioning to the brand new software program,” Trosper mentioned. “We do it very fastidiously. We toe-dip; we ensure that nothing goes unsuitable, and on the finish of that’s once we begin the following set of checkouts the place we’ll deploy the arm. We’ll do our first drive — about 5 meters ahead and again.”
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The check driving will prepared Perseverance for its first huge journey — a journey to a Martian airfield. The mission staff will ship the rover to a great, open spot the place the Four-lb. (1.eight kilograms) helicopter Ingenuity, one of many mission’s expertise demonstrations, can strut its stuff. (Perseverance additionally carries a tech demo designed to generate oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide-dominated environment, gear that might support future human settlers on the Purple Planet.)
Ingenuity will then drop onto the bottom from Perseverance’s stomach, the place it has been connected since earlier than the mission’s July 2020 launch, and the rover will drive a protected distance away. Ingenuity will fireplace up its blades and try to develop into the primary rotorcraft ever to ply the skies of a world past Earth.
If Ingenuity is profitable, helicopters may quickly develop into exploration fixtures on Mars, gathering information on their very own and/or serving as scouts for rovers, NASA officers have mentioned.
Getting Perseverance to the helipad, after which safely out of the best way, may require 10 sols or so, and the demo flights are anticipated to take a complete of 30 sols, Trosper mentioned. After that work is finished, the staff will improve the rover’s auto-navigation functionality, and Perseverance will then begin driving towards its first predominant science web site, which the mission staff will establish over the approaching days and weeks.
So the anticipated timeframe, Trosper mentioned, is helicopter prep and flights within the spring, with science work beginning in earnest in the summertime.
However “these issues can change,” she pressured. “They may go sooner. Or if now we have to drive, traverse, to totally different locations that take an extended time period, they may go slower.”
Perseverance ought to have a number of time to get its various work executed on the ground of Jezero, which harbored a giant lake and a river delta within the historic previous. Mars 2020’s prime mission lasts one Mars yr, or about 687 Earth days.
And there is each cause to anticipate mission extensions if the nuclear-powered Perseverance stays in good well being. In any case, its predecessor, the Curiosity rover, continues to be going robust inside Mars’ Gale Crater, greater than 9 years after touching down there. Perseverance relies closely off Curiosity; the 2 rovers share the identical primary physique plan and the identical kind of energy supply (radioisotope thermoelectric turbines), and so they each landed utilizing a dramatic “sky crane” technique.
There will probably be heaps to sit up for alongside the best way. Ingenuity will fly earlier than you recognize it, for example. And mission staff members mentioned throughout yesterday’s information convention that they hope to launch on Monday (Feb. 22) high-definition video (with sound!) that Perseverance captured throughout its dramatic however picture-perfect descent — offered this recording gear all labored as deliberate, after all.
Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a ebook concerning the seek for alien life. Comply with him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Comply with us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Fb.